Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"$4.2 million will not bring back drinkable well water to the long-suffering families of Dimock, Pennsylvania," said anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber on Thursday. (Photo: AP)

In 'David vs. Goliath' Fracking Case, Families Handed Major Win

A court on Thursday handed down a $4.2 million verdict—and vindication—to two Pennsylvania families who said fracking contaminated their water

Deirdre Fulton

A 10-person jury in court on Thursday handed down a $4.2 million verdict—and vindication—to two Pennsylvania families who refused to settle in a case pitting homeowners in the village of Dimock against a Houston-based fossil fuels company.

After a two-week trial at the U.S. District Court in Scranton, the federal jury found that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., one of the largest natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania, had polluted the families' well water.

As Common Dreams reported last month, neighbors Scott Ely and his wife, Monica Marta-Ely, and Ray and Victoria Hubert were the only remaining litigants in a lawsuit that began in 2009 with more than 40 plaintiffs—most of whom settled in 2012.

According to news outlets, the Elys were awarded $2.6 million and their three children $50,000 each. The Huberts were awarded $1.4 million, with another family member awarded $50,000.

The verdict drew praise from anti-fracking activists including filmmaker Josh Fox, who featured Dimock's brown, odorous, and flammable water in his documentary Gasland and told Greenwire that he was "overjoyed" by the news.

"People say this was like David and Goliath," he said. "Well, we just got a reminder of how that story ends."

Still, the problem with fracking is much bigger than two families or one small town, said anti-fracking advocate and biologist Sandra Steingraber, science advisor for Americans Against Fracking.

"$4.2 million will not bring back drinkable well water to the long-suffering families of Dimock, Pennsylvania," she told EcoWatch.

"No amount of money can do that," Steingraber said. "Once groundwater is polluted, it's polluted forevermore. But what this important jury decision does do is strip away the mirage of omnipotence that Cabot and other gas companies operate behind. Fracking poisons water. That's what the science shows. The frackers will be held responsible. That's what this court decision shows."

Cabot Oil & Gas said Thursday it would appeal the ruling, accusing the jury of ignoring "overwhelming scientific and factual evidence that Cabot acted as a prudent operator in conducting its operations."

But as EcoWatch reported, an NPR StateImpact report prior to the trial revealed that Cabot Oil & Gas had already accumulated more than 130 drilling violations at its Dimock wells, yet insisted that methane migration in Dimock's water is naturally occurring. The company is currently banned from drilling in a 9-mile area of Dimock but is trying to lift the ban.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Democrats Demand Amazon and Facebook End Efforts to 'Sideline' FTC Chair Lina Khan

"Your efforts only add to the perception that you are attempting to bully your regulators, disarm the FTC, and avoid accountability rather than to strengthen ethics standards."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Follows House Dems' Letter by Imploring Biden to Close Gitmo 'Once and for All'

"This letter, signed by four House committee chairs, should send a clear message to President Biden: He has the political support to swiftly close the detention center at Guantánamo."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Truly Disturbing': Facebook Blasted for Blocking NYU Researchers Examining Ad Model and Misinformation

"It is disgraceful that Facebook is attempting to squash legitimate research that is informing the public about disinformation on their platform."

Jessica Corbett ·


After Decades-Long Grassroots Push, Key Senate Panel Votes to Repeal Iraq War Authorization

Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of the U.S. House to vote against the AUMF in 2001, called the vote "a major victory in our fight to end forever wars."

Julia Conley ·


Mexico Files Historic Lawsuit Against US Gun Companies Fueling Cartel Carnage

The first-of-its-kind suit alleges U.S. weapons firms "design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico."

Brett Wilkins ·