Disputes Over Marcellus Shale Move to the Courtroom

December 17, 2009
Bart E. Cassidy
The Legal Intelligencer

It should be no surprise that the promise of financial windfalls through natural gas production coupled with concerns that gas exploration and development methods pose a risk to property and the environment have led to the courthouse. The multiple civil actions filed during the past month may constitute the tip of the iceberg, and their resolution will almost certainly have significant implications for potential future litigation.

The claims have reflected various legal theories under both statutory and common law. In early November, an individual landowner, George Zimmerman, filed suit against Atlas Energy Inc., alleging that Atlas' hydraulic fracturing methods had caused property damage to Zimmerman's land. Zimmerman alleges that groundwater testing at several on-site wells revealed the presence of chemicals above EPA screening levels, and further alleges that Atlas' drilling methods are responsible for the release of these chemicals to his groundwater. Atlas has denied the allegations and reports that it will vigorously defend the suit.

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