When residents of Finleyville, outside Pittsburgh, PA, began to complain about noise and fumes from the nearby fracking operations of the EQT Corporation, they were hoping for some sort of resolution.
Instead, EQT offered the residents money. Not to complain.
ProPublica reports that, initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, worked with the residents promising them noise studies and hotel vouchers to escape the noise and air pollution.
Then EQT got more aggressive.
It offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future.
What exactly would this cash offer cover? What liability would it grant EQT freedom from?
- All potential health problems and property damage that could be connected to the fracking.
- Freedom from complaints and liability associated with noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.
- Freedom from complaints associated, not just with drilling, but with the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.
Liability agreements such as this one—also called “nuisance easements” — have often been used in other circumstances to compensate residents near airports, landfills or wind farms. But they’ve been rare in the oil and gas industry.
Approximately 85% of the residents in Finleyville have signed the agreements, according to EQT’s spokeswoman, but some residents have refused to even negotiate with the company.
Take homeowner Gary Baumgardner. He says his house constantly vibrates from the drilling and the noise gets up to 75 decibels. He has also had to leave the house three times because the fumes from the well site became unbearable.
Baumgardner believes the nuisance easement he was offered is a part of the industry’s tactic to silence landowners.