Exxon Contaminates Pennsylvania Stream With Illegal Discharge But Warns That Charges May Trigger Anti-Environmental Backlash

200px-Exxon_logo.svgExxon has long been viewed by many environmentalists as one of the most hostile companies on environmental protection. Indeed, many environmentalists continue to boycott the company’s gas stations. This is not simply because of the Exxon Valdez disaster but a long record of environmental violations. We can now add the illegal dumping of shale-gas drilling waste water in Pennsylvania. Exxon employees found a plug had been removed on a massive tank that allowed the wastewater to drain out and contaminate a nearby stream with chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum. The company has warned the public that the charges against Exxon could produce an anti-environmental backlash from other companies.


Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. is responsible for the violation at its Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010. The state ordered XTO to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area.

Exxon is outraged by the charges of course. Its website did its best imitation of Captain Renault in Casablanca in declaring nothing but shock that Exxon would be charged with environmental violations: “Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless. There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.” Wow, not even negligent conduct? Exxon releases tens of thousands of gallons of contaminants into the soil and water of Pennsylvania but insists that there was nothing even negligent about it. Moreover the curious removal of a plug was an act of God?

Here is my favorite part: “Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices. This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.” This is why Exxon has the reputation that it does as a menace to the environment. It seems to hire officials and lawyers who have extreme views of corporate entitlement and an equally antagonistic view of environmental protection. Here the company is actually saying that, by charging it for a massive release into the environment, the public is risking an even greater hit from Exxon and other companies. The “small release” in this case was 50,000 gallons that contaminate a river that ran through communities in Pennsylvania. It is an argument that would only appeal to Exxon officials living on the orbiting world of Elysium.

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26 thoughts on “Exxon Contaminates Pennsylvania Stream With Illegal Discharge But Warns That Charges May Trigger Anti-Environmental Backlash

  1. This kind of extortion attempt will only get worse as time goes on…..unless it is brought to a screeching halt soon. For big companies like Exxon, BP and others, fines are just the price of doing business, and ends up being passed on to consumers.

    It will not get better until some of the boardroom and executive suite denizens start appearing on the evening news….being perp-walked by US Marshals into vans that will take them to the crowbar hotel for an extended stay.

    Given that a prosecutor can convince most Grand Juries to indict a ham sandwich, it seems to me that pursuing a Hobbs Act violation is not much of a stretch. However, in order to do that, control of the DoJ has to be wrested from the influence of the oil and gas maggots.

  2. Ah, right into the Susquehanna River. Maryland loves Pennsylvania. William Penn’s followers have pretty much killed the Chesapeake Bay. But what’s a little bit more teratogenic chemical cocktail into the bay if it means blue crabs with four or five claws. Claw meat’s the best!

  3. This represents an escalation of the power that such companies believe they have over the public and the law. Not just the usual double-talk excuses, but actual threats. And they know they can get away with it because the law increasingly favors them.

  4. This disregard for the law is rampant and it starts at the top. Administration officials lie to Congress without concern, knowing charges of perjury will never be pursued. Congress encourages the falsehoods in order to keep the public ill-informed. Certain Congressmen/women sit in their seats accepting paychecks and vowing to do no work. Bank and Wall Street executives know that breaking the law will never result in any sort of charges. Remember Colin Powell at the U N with his test tube proving WMD?

    Law and order has completely broken down at the top so of course Exxon feels perfectly comfortable in threatening dire consequences to anyone who “sees the light”. It’s what thugs do to each other in a lawless society. Proving who is the bigger thug is the only thing that counts.

  5. “Law and order has completely broken down at the top so of course Exxon feels perfectly comfortable in threatening dire consequences to anyone who “sees the light”. It’s what thugs do to each other in a lawless society.” -Blouise

    Bears repeating.

  6. I’m sorry! I couldn’t hear you over the threats and bullshit you are spewing, Exxon. Could you repeat that?

    And what OS and Blouise said.

  7. what every post above said!!!!!!!! lol Gene its a good thing i swallowed the ice cream i was eating before reading your post. or my poor keyboard would surely be shorted

  8. “Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices. This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”

    “Noblesse Oblige”?

  9. Time for the government to make a public statement they are instigating a criminal action for the environmental law violation. And then quote Exxon’s words as being one of reasons they decided to go with the criminal action.

    But some politician will come to their rescue.

  10. Exxon’s negligence (if not outright indifference) notwithstanding, the real culprit in this case might be the state of Pennsylvania itself as last Spring there was a new story that quoted a University study which found that only 20% of Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing wells were properly inspected by state. Ultimately the state has a responsibility at carrying out its duties as a watchdog against companies engaging in a potentially harmful activity such as hydraulic fracturing drilling.

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