(Image courtesy of XTO Energy Inc.)

On Thursday Pennsylvania District Judge James G. Carn ruled that criminal charges against XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, will go to court.

XTO is charged with illegally discharging approximately 50,000 gallons of wastewater at one of its well pads from a Marcellus Shale gas well site.

Vandalism is the suspected cause of the spill, however according to Chief Deputy Attorney General Glenn A. Parno, XTO did not take reasonable measures to safeguard the site from others.

The well site was unmanned and there were no security cameras or perimeter fence.

XTO also never filed a complaint with state police after the vandalism incident was discovered.

The fluid containing barium, strontium, chlorides and total dissolved solids have been seeping into an unnamed tributary of Sugar Run.

XTO has argued the prosecution did not show criminal negligence or cite any regulatory requirement for specific security measures.

“Just because the commonwealth after the fact can brainstorm additional measures XTO might possibly have taken does not mean that XTO was criminally negligent for not having taken them,” The company released in a statement.


  1. News out of Pennsylvania that criminal charges against XTO for a waste water spill years ago may be a harbinger of things to come. The discharge, reportedly caused by vandalism, was mitigated and damage remedied, but the assault on rational enforcement seems to have new life.

    The inspector referenced in reports cites a lack of video monitoring as one of the failures on the part of the operator for this incident back in 2010. The overwhelming majority of video in the US is for forensic examination – after the fact. So what difference would that have made? Recent developments with behavioral recognition that turns the camera into an alarming device were not available years ago. While that’s used now by some operators here in Texas, it’s only recent.

    So this case should bear close attention to both the environmental extremists and the oil industry realists. Just who will be responsible for damage done by criminal activity? Should the state hold a company criminally liable because it deems the measures taken were inadequate – even when that same state exercised its power to require and approve permits to build and operate the facility?

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