Fracking litigation: Buying victims' silence
By Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Mark Drajem - Jun 6, 2013, Bloomberg
Chris and Stephanie Hallowich were sure drilling for natural gas near their Pennsylvania home was to blame for the headaches, burning eyes and sore throats they suffered after the work began.
The companies insisted hydraulic fracturing -- the technique they used to free underground gas -- wasn’t the cause. Nevertheless, in 2011, a year after the family sued, Range Resources Corp (RRC). and two other companies agreed to a $750,000 settlement. In order to collect, the Hallowiches promised not to tell anyone, according to court filings.
The Hallowiches aren’t alone. In cases from Wyoming to Arkansas, Pennsylvania to Texas, drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who say hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, ruined their water, according to a review by Bloomberg News of hundreds of regulatory and legal filings. In most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet.
The strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the news media and health researchers, and makes it difficult to challenge the industry’s claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water.