Sustained Outrage

We broke a story in this morning’s Gazette about three lawsuits in northern West Virginia that challenge a central practice of the region’s growing natural gas drilling industry: Dumping fracking waste on people’s property and then leaving potentially toxic pits behind when the drilling is done.

As we reported:

Larry and Jana Rine allege that Chesapeake unlawfully disposed of drilling wastes in the pit, then buried it and planned to leave it on a 210-acre property the Rines use as a part-time home and hunting camp at Silver Hill, east of New Martinsville.

Now, they allege, the company is using repair of a slip on its well pad as an excuse to haul away the wastes and potentially cover up what was really dumped into the pit.

Preliminary testing found the soil contained diesel fuel, benzene and a variety of other contaminants, court records show.

In a suit filed late last year, the Rines argued that it’s not “reasonably necessary” — the legal test for activities allowed by state natural gas laws — for Chesapeake to leave a buried waste dump in order to extract the gas it owns beneath the Rine property.

“These cases are just common sense and common law,” said Brian Glasser, a Charleston lawyer who represents the Rines and has filed two other, similar cases against Chesapeake. “You can’t bury a bunch of waste in somebody’s yard. It’s that simple.”

If successful, the lawsuits could force major changes in the way companies handle the huge amounts of wastes generated as they rush to drill for natural gas in the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation.

Here’s a copy of the legal brief that prompted U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp to issue a temporary restraining order against Chesapeake: