$3 Million Awarded to North Texas Family in Fracking Lawsuit

A worker hooks up pipe during drilling in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas in 2012.

Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

A worker hooks up pipe during drilling in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas in 2012.

A Texas family sued a drilling company was awarded close to three million dollars this week by a Dallas County jury. The decision is being called a landmark one by people opposed to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” and touted as a first by the plaintiffs’ legal team.

“The fracking industry has really just taken off in the last three or four years. So really this is a new problem to the extent that we’re seeing cases now that are getting a verdict,” David Mathews, a lawyer representing the Parr family, tells StateImpact Texas.

Fracking is the drilling technique that pumps water and chemicals into the ground to release oil and gas. In this case the Parrs argued that fracking near their North Texas ranch by Aruba Petroleum hurt their health, reduced their property value, and even forced them to flee their property.

The Parrs had initially filed suit against other companies as well, but those were either dismissed or settled out of court. Companies and plaintiffs often settle, another reason why jury awards are rare.

Mathews is calling the decision “a bit of a wake-up call to industry.”

“If you are going to be in the fracking industry, you have to do it safely, and you have to do it with care to your neighbors,” he says. “I think this may well bring out other people that will stand up for themselves.”

In an emailed statement, Aruba Petroleum denied that it harmed the family.

“Aruba is an experienced oil and gas operator that is in compliance within the air quality limits set by the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” the statement reads in part.

The verdict comes as public scrutiny increases on the impact of fracking and associated activities on air quality. An investigation into air quality in the Eagle Ford Shale drilling fields in South Texas earlier this year found that oil and gas activity there was responsible for a deterioration of air quality. Another study out of the University of Texas at Austin found that better monitoring of air quality was needed in light of the drilling boom in North Texas.

A judge still needs to sign off on the three million dollar award to the Parrs. Aruba Petroleum says it will wait for that to happen before deciding whether to appeal.

Comments

  • fracking disgusted

    Incredible when an attorney that had little to nothing do with the case takes credit to get thier name in the paper. Pat on the back to you Matthews.

  • 35YearFracer

    There is so much wrong in this article. To start with, hydraulic fracturing has been around since 1947. Second, it took off during the seventies when Saudi Arabia stopped selling oil to USA due to the USA’s support of Israel. Third it is not a new drilling technique; it is a completion technique. Big difference! Fourth, the term is fracing, not fracking.

    • Liz Whitlock

      No, “fracing” would rhyme with “racing.” Just as “picnicking” has that “k” added to give the “c” its hard sound, so is it with the “k” added to “frac” to make “fracking.” I’d love to see your reaction to your own drinking water and air quality and property value being destroyed by this dangerous and insidious process that creates long-term environmental destruction in exchange for short-term financial gain for those few who are already richer than rich. Let’s see it in your backyard and you deal with the effects.

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