Kane's office terms XTO's claims as baseless

XTO Energy is the first Marcellus Shale natural gas producer to face criminal charges.
XTO Energy is the first Marcellus Shale natural gas producer to face criminal charges. (RON JENKINS / AP File)
Posted: July 11, 2014

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office asserted Wednesday that an Exxon Mobil subsidiary's claims that she selectively prosecuted the company for a 2010 Marcellus Shale gas-drilling spill are baseless.

Kane's office asked a Lycoming County Common Pleas Judge to disregard XTO Energy Inc.'s motion seeking the dismissal of criminal charges in the high-profile case.

XTO last month argued that Kane was prosecuting it in pursuit of a politically motivated anti-fracking agenda.

It asked Judge Marc F. Lovecchio to force Kane's office to produce all documents related to its selective-prosecution claim, including internal communications about publicizing the prosecution.

"XTO's allegations are wholly unconvincing and are nothing more than weak attempts to obfuscate the truth," Kane's office stated in a filing signed by Linda Dale Hoffa, senior executive deputy attorney general.

Hoffa wrote that the truth is that XTO is criminally liable and the evidence shows that the 2010 Lycoming County spill that was discovered by a state environmental inspector was not the first discharge at the site.

XTO, which is based in Fort Worth, is the first Marcellus Shale natural gas producer to face criminal charges for its conduct.

The charges stem from a leak of about 50,000 gallons of wastewater from steel storage containers on a drilling site in Lycoming County's rolling farmland. XTO said that the containers were managed by a contractor who was treating the waste for recycling and that investigators cannot determine who opened valves that allowed the fluid to drain onto the ground and into a nearby creek.

XTO has argued that it remediated the spill and agreed to a $100,000 settlement to resolve federal civil claims. XTO says more serious environmental violations have not drawn the same level of prosecution or publicity from Kane.

Kane's filing dismissed XTO's arguments that its federal settlement absolves it of state criminal liability as "wishful thinking."


amaykuth@phillynews.com

215-854-2947 @maykuth

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