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MONTROSE - Pennsylvania state regulators are ordering Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. to halt its use of a drilling technique in Susquehanna County that uses liquids to fracture rock to release natural gas.

Friday's order by the Department of Environmental Protection's came on the heels of three separate spills of a gel-like lubricant in recent days at Cabot drilling sites.

The lubricant contaminated a wetland and creek, although a Cabot spokesman says the lubricant was heavily diluted by freshwater and minimized any damage.

State regulators say Cabot must complete a number of important engineering and safety tasks before it can resume hydraulic fracturing.

State regulators also accused Cabot earlier this year of drilling failures that led to the pollution of numerous residential water wells in Susquehanna County.

The order requires Cabot to develop within 14 days an updated and accurate Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan for all permitted well pad sites in Susquehanna County, according to the DEP release.

The company must conduct an engineering study of all equipment and work practices associated with hydraulic fracturing at all well sites in the county within 21 days.

The engineering study must include a detailed evaluation and explanation of the causes of the three spills that occurred in the past week and establish corrective measures Cabot will use to prevent similar releases.

Within 21 days of DEP's approval of the Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan, the Control and Disposal Plan, and the engineering study, Cabot must fully implement all of the recommendations and requirements in those documents.

The company also must place the approved Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan in a conspicuous location at each permitted well site and provide a copy to each contractor and subcontractor working at any well site, the agency stated.

Contractors and subcontractors cannot begin work at any well site until they receive the two plans.
 
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