NATURAL GAS:

Md. to sue over fracking spill in Susquehanna tributary

Maryland's attorney general plans to sue a gas driller working in Pennsylvania for violating federal environmental laws after thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid spilled into the Susquehanna River watershed last month.

In a "notice of intent to sue," Attorney General Douglas Gansler said Chesapeake Energy Corp. had an equipment failure on April 19 at a gas well being drilled in Leroy Township in north-central Pennsylvania.

"Tens of thousands of gallons" of "fracking" fluid leaked out and crossed neighboring farms before flowing into Towanda Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, Gansler said.

The spill "may pose ... an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the population adjacent to the well site, recreational users of Towanda Creek and the Susquehanna River and to the environment," Gansler told the company.

Because the fracking fluid contains toxic chemicals, the attorney general argued the spill constitutes a violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act.

The Susquehanna provides nearly half of the fresh water entering the Chesapeake Bay and supplies drinking water to 6.2 million people.

A Chesapeake Energy spokesman said testing during the spill showed "limited and very localized environmental impact, with no adverse affects [sic] on aquatic wildlife in Towanda Creek."

Tests a short distance downstream in the Susquehanna found "no effect whatsoever," said Brian Grove, senior director for corporate development at Chesapeake Energy. "The Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay face many environmental threats; this event is not one of them" (Frank Roylance, Baltimore Sun, May 2). -- AS