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Cabot Claims Extortion by Landowner as Dimock, PA, Saga Continues

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. is seeking $5 million in damages from an outspoken Dimock, PA, resident and his legal team for what the company claims is an extortion attempt.

The complaint by the natural gas producer takes aim at a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year by Ray Kemble and the Speer Law Firm of Missouri and Fellerman & Ciarimboli of Pennsylvania. Kemble’s lawsuit, since withdrawn, had claimed Cabot was continuing to pollute his water supply. However, despite the lawsuit being withdrawn, Cabot said it would “pursue justice” against frivolous and “stale” claims. 

Cabot is arguing that Kemble was part of a broader 2012 settlement that included dozens of Dimock residents who first alleged in 2009 that the company contaminated their groundwater supplies through gas drilling activities. Cabot claims that Kemble has violated the settlement by speaking out against the company.

The company, one of the largest gas producers in Pennsylvania, drills only in Susquehanna County where the lawsuit was filed and where the sleepy Dimock Township is located. Cabot alleges in its lawsuit that Kemble and his attorneys, Charles Speer, Edward Ciarimboli and Clancy Boylan, tried to extort and harass the company by attracting attention and pursuing “settled claims.”

Kemble had said in an interview with local news media earlier this month that his water supply remains fouled -- a problem he said was compounded after Cabot drilled wells near his house.

The Dimock saga also was reignited this month after a federal agency confirmed that it has returned to the township to test Kemble’s water and that of several other houses in the area. Several rounds of testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators concluded that water from private wells in Dimock is safe to drink. The recent arrival of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was prompted by ongoing complaints about Dimock’s water quality.

A U.S. magistrate judge earlier this year reversed a federal jury’s 2016 decision that required the company to pay damages. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify the more than $4 million in punitive and compensatory damages awarded to two families in Dimock after their 2009 complaints. 

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