Testimony in Criminal Case Against Natural Gas Company

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A natural gas drilling company facing criminal charges for a spill in Lycoming County was in court Wednesday for a hearing.

It is the first time the alleged wrongdoing by a gas company is being prosecuted in the state court system.

There were more than eight hours of testimony in the case against XTO Energy, which is a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil.

The office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General charged the company for a spill that happened in 2010 at one of its well pads in Lycoming County and said no matter how the spill happened, XTO should be held responsible.

Hour after hour inside the district court office in Williamsport, a judge heard testimony from people with close ties to a spill of natural gas wastewater back in 2010.

XTO Energy, the company facing charges it violated state regulations when the spill near Hughesville happened, have high-powered attorneys on their side

One is from Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia who specialize in white-collar criminal defense.

The first person on the stand, Jeremy Daniel, an employee for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

For more than two hours, he described finding the leak at the natural gas well pad.

Daniel testified he did tests on the wastewater and noticed a valve on a holding tank open, spilling the fluid.

There were plants damaged by the spill and DEP found contamination in a tributary to Sugar Run.

An XTO employee testified there were no security guards or barriers at the well pad in Penn Township.

Charges were filed by the Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office back in September, accusing XTO of not having done enough to prevent the spill.

Even after XTO settled with federal regulators over the spill, costing the company $100,000, defense attorneys said they will fight the charges in Lycoming County.

"We would not have brought this case unless we had thoroughly looked at the law and the facts and felt we have the evidence to go forward," said a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

Both parties will submit legal documents by next week.

There's no indication when a judge will decide if there's enough evidence to send the case to trial.