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Newspapers Seek Missing Court Documents in Fracking Contamination Case

Mark Schmerling/Courtesy Protecting Our Waters

Stephanie Hallowich with her children. The Hallowich's sued after they say drilling activity made their children sick.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports they are seeking missing information from unsealed court documents related to a fracking contamination case in Washington County.

Hallowich v. Range Resources is one of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller.

A Washington County judge heard testimony yesterday from the Post-Gazette and the Observer-Reporter about whether a confidential settlement agreement should have been part of the court documents, which were unsealed last month.

From the Post-Gazette:

Those records were sealed in a closed-door hearing from which Post-Gazette reporters were barred in August 2011. Washington County Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky, who has since resigned, sealed the case records at the request of Mark West Energy Partners, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream, Range Resources, and Stephanie and Chris Hallowich, who received a $750,000 settlement.

Peter Villari, the Philadelphia lawyer who represented the Hallowichs and their two young children, was subpoenaed by the newspapers and testified that he questioned the Hallowichs about the settlement agreement during that hearing in Judge Pozonsky’s chambers. He said it was his intention that the complete settlement agreement be filed with the court to meet legal ethical standards and protect the Hallowich’s minor children and that he left the agreement with the judge “on the assumption it would be filed.”

The Hallowich family has since moved from their home. They are under a gag order and are unable to speak about the case.

You can read an annotated version of the court case here.

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