Criminal charges in gas drilling case spur debate

PITTSBURGH (AP) — When Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed criminal charges against a gas drilling company last week, some business groups cried foul and suggested it was an abuse of legal power, since XTO Energy had previously settled the same 2010 case with federal authorities by paying fines.

Now, legal and environmental experts say it’s clear Pennsylvania made a broader statement by filing criminal charges, and XTO is also making a statement by fighting them.

George Jugovic, an environmental lawyer with the group Penn Future, says it’s hard to judge whether criminal charges are warranted without more information.

Kathryn Klaber, CEO of the industry Marcellus Shale Coalition, says the criminal charges set a bad precedent that may impact the whole industry

The shale formation also extends under Ohio, West Virginia and New York.

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