Bloomberg reports on how confidentiality agreements with landowners across the country have helped protect drilling companies from bad publicity and allegations of pollution.
The article specifically mentions the Hallowich v. Range Resources case in Washington County.
The Hallowich family sued gas drillers after they said drilling activity near their home outside Pittsburgh made their children sick. The case was eventually settled for $750,000, but the family signed a strict gag order.
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.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania recently reported, the gas industry has also been building a database of “pre-drill” or baseline water test results from Pennsylvania’s private water wells. It’s critical information that helps establish whether drilling activities may have caused water contamination issues.
Scientists have criticized the industry for not making this data public.