Methane explosion 1000 ft. from fracking well burns man and family

Cody Murray, 38, and his father, wife, and four-year-old daughter were all burned by a “fireball” after methane built up in his pump house and exploded when Murray entered the shed to check on a water issue. The lawsuit, filed last week against EOG Resources, Fairway Resources LLC, and three subsidiaries of Fairway, alleges the methane was from the defendants’ fracking wells just 1,000 feet from Murray’s house, which sits 35 miles outside Fort Worth.

New methods, though, have enabled scientists to track isotopes and determine where in the ground methane came from, Hamilton said, making it easier to establish causation.

“Rigorous scientific testing, including isotope testing, has conclusively demonstrated that the high-level methane contamination of the Murrays’ water well resulted from natural gas drilling and extraction activities. The high levels of methane in the Murrays’ well were not ‘naturally occurring,’” the complaint states.

The second issue in fracking cases is that it’s often difficult to directly connect physical damages to contamination, such as in the case of long-term exposure. For instance, another case in Texas that alleged fracking had caused nosebleeds and asthma was thrown out last summer. In Oklahoma, it took a state Supreme Court decision to uphold citizens’ rights to sue fracking companies over earthquakes.

In this case, though, there are “serious, catastrophic and likely permanent injuries that indisputably occurred due to methane.” said trial lawyer Christopher Hamilton, who filed the suit in Dallas.

Methane leaks have been repeatedly linked to fracking operations. Satellite observations have shown that methane is leaking around fracking hotspots at such a high rate that there is no climate benefit in switching from coal to natural gas power, despite the fact that natural gas burns cleanly.

And methane leaks aren’t the only danger posed by fracking operations. Researchers from theUniversity of Texas, Arlington tested water samples collected over the past three years from wells near fracking operations and found elevated levels of heavy metals such as arsenic. Their findings, released this summer, show elevated levels of 19 different chemicals including the so-called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes) compounds. Heavy metals are toxic to humans, and BTEX compounds are considered carcinogenic.

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