WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (CN) – Shell Energy cannot dismiss claims that the controversial fracking technique to extract natural gas is an “ultra hazardous activity,” a federal judge ruled.
The claim stems from a lawsuit Edward Kamuck filed against Shell Energy Holdings GP in August 2011.
Kamuck says the energy giant’s fracking operation on land neighboring his 93-acre tract in rural Pennsylvania constitutes “an abnormally dangerous and ultra hazardous activity,” and that Shell should be subjected to strict liability for “the contamination and pollution caused by … releases, spills, sprays, emissions, discharges and flowback of hazardous chemicals and combustible gases.”
Calling himself a “totally disabled” Vietnam war veteran, Kamuck says Shell’s operation contaminated his land and water supply.
In March, a magistrate judge recommended that the court green light Kamuck’s claims of strict liability claim and private nuisance over the noise, fluid and dust associated with fracking.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Connor adopted that finding April 27.
Kamuck says he acquired the land in Mansfield, Pa., in December 2009.
His parcel had allegedly been subdivided from a 323-acre property that was subject to a 10-year oil and gas lease.
Kamuck says that Shell approached the owners of plots from the subdivided property a couple of years ago, asking them to amend the lease to allow for extraction of natural gas from the underlying Marcellus Shale. The vast rock formation contains massive natural gas reserves that have drawn the frenzied attention of drillers in recent years.
“All of the property owners who held lands formerly encompassed by the … lease signed the amendment to the … lease with one exception – the plaintiff, Edward Kamuck,” U.S. Magistrate Martin Carlson wrote in March.
“Accordingly, those adjoining properties are subject to the … lease, as amended, and the defendants have commenced drilling and extraction of natural gas from these properties under the terms of the amended … lease,” Carlson wrote. “Because Kamuck refused to enter into the amended … lease, the original 10-year lease on his property expired by its own terms on June 12, 2011.”
While the strict-liability and nuisance claims can proceed, the court dismissed Kamuck’s claim that Shell drilled the shale in breach of the lease.