Magers Now Suing CNX, Columbia

CAMERON – Chesapeake Energy attorneys deny the company’s drilling and fracking contaminated Jeremiah Magers’ drinking water well with methane, so he is now suing CNX Gas Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission for the problem.

Since 2009, Magers has been dealing with issues at his residence near Cameron that he believes are directly related to drilling and fracking operations. In 2010, he said he heard heavy natural gas gurgles and detected a mist coming from his water well, so he called 911. The mist was such that Magers said he had to “burn off” some of the gas to help prevent an explosion.

Magers previously reported his water well became contaminated with methane – and that natural gas began bubbling in Fish Creek – shortly after Chesapeake began fracking at a production site roughly 1,200 feet from Magers’ water tank. His complaint states, “Sufficient gas was present that the plaintiffs could ignite both the water and Fish Creek.”

Magers originally filed suit against Chesapeake in Marshall County Circuit Court in February, but the case was later shifted to U.S. District Court in Wheeling. Magers’ attorney, Joseph Canestraro, alleges Chesapeake’s failure to provide a fresh water source demonstrates “willful, wanton, intentional, reckless and malicious” behavior, along with “criminal indifference to the obligations it owed to the plaintiffs.”

However, Magers has now amended his complaint to also file suit against CNX Gas Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission. CNX is the natural gas drilling arm of Consol Energy, the parent company of the local McElroy and Shoemaker coal mines.

The amended complaint states that CNX “drilled shallow gas wells on a tract of land adjacent to the plaintiffs’ property. It further notes that Columbia “has a gas storage field on a tract of land adjacent to plaintiffs’ property.”

Chesapeake officials previously said the company addressed the issues at Magers’ property by collecting water samples. Chesapeake withdrew the water supply from Magers’ home because the company’s test results showed the “methane present in the water sample did not match the gas from our oil and gas operations.”

West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas Chief James Martin previously confirmed his department has investigated the source of Magers’ gas problems, but he said the representatives were unable to draw a conclusion regarding the source of the methane. The oil and gas office operates as an arm of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“The defendants have failed to provide the plaintiffs an alternate water supply or compensate them for the contamination of their water well and their costs in purchasing water,” the complaint claims. “The plaintiffs had no need to purchase water prior to their water being contaminated.”

Larry Blalock of the Jackson Kelly law firm is Chesapeake’s company counsel for the case. He states that Chesapeake has not provided water to Magers because the company does not believe it is obligated to do so. Blalock is asking the court to dismiss Chesapeake from the lawsuit – and award him the “costs and expenses” incurred for trying the case.

As of Friday, neither CNX nor Columbia had responded to Magers’ complaint.