Standing up against intimidation:
Oil and gas company targets prominent activist
May 9, 2012
Statement by Gwen Lachelt, Director, Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project
After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in when the state of Texas failed to address a water well contamination incident involving Range Resources, the company responded by suing the very landowner whose water was polluted. And Range didn’t stop there. It cast a wide net in a twisted attempt to show that the landowner was defaming Range’s reputation. They even forced our employee, the popular blogger and well-known oil and gas activist, Sharon Wilson (aka “TX Sharon”), to appear in court last week.
Range is accusing Sharon of conspiring with the landowner to commit defamation. Range demanded that Sharon divulge personal financial information, all correspondence mentioning the landowner, the EPA, the scientist that conducted the water quality tests, and even the word “Range,” dating back to 2005.
In her blog, Texas Sharon reports daily on oil and gas impacts in Texas, as well as across the country and the world. Sharon works every day to assist people whose lives have been affected by drilling and fracking and to reform oil and gas policies and practices. When the Range story hit the Texas television station WFAA in December 2010, Sharon got busy. She posted a home video she received in an email about the landowner’s water contamination. She wrote about the case and related issues using publicly available information such as EPA documents, media reports, and court transcripts. She expressed her opinion.
Range Resources’ tactics appear to be designed to send a warning to landowners, other bloggers, journalists, and advocates that if they document contamination with home videos or photos, write about oil and gas impacts, or ask questions, that they too will be hauled into court.
One thing we know for certain is that Texas Sharon, Earthworks and the many people and groups nationwide expressing concerns about water and air quality and the future of their communities – are not going away.
As more and more reports of drilling and fracking contamination surface in the national media, local, state, and federal agencies are responding by adopting protective measures and requiring better oil and gas practices.
If Range had invested in reasonable practices to prevent pollution instead of spending untold sums lashing out at the landowner and a blogger, the goodwill created would be immeasurable.
Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project works with communities to prevent and minimize the impacts caused by oil and gas development. Earthworks is a non-profit organization with offices in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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In my opinion Range deserves a fair trial. THIS IS A DEMOCRATIC NATION last check.
If the Lipsky’s conspired to attached a hose to the water well’s gas vent with intent to defame Range then they should have their day in court. What kind of crazy are you people?
TX you may have lots of support on this site but that doesnt mean what your doing is right (or legal). Tread lightly.
Thanks for your concern, Tim. According to court documents, the landowner did not attach the hose to the water well.
“Even Range’s own expert, petroleum engineer McBeath, said in his testimony that the water well company had attached the hose to burn the gas off further from the wellhead. The purpose was to avoid an accidental fire, not to conspire against Range. After all, the EPA hadn’t based its order on a video. The agency’s investigators had seen it all for themselves.”
I’m not guilty of conspiring. I’m guilty of reading.
How could you defame Range (or any other GASHOLE) because if you set them on the side of the road like “road kill”, the buzzards wouldn’t come to eat them!
They lit the hose knowing it was conected to the gas vent. Tell the whole truth TX. That seems to be your problem. Too bad it turned out they were actually the one responsible– not Range. Boo hoo
With Al in charge, EPA didnt have the expertise to properly analyze the gas. Biogenic gas proven by fingerprinting. Facts are little pesky things eh?
Cathy McMullen says
Gosh, Tim you seem to know so much Range should use you as an expert witness and it is Dr. Al. Are you a Dr? Scientist? Environmental expert? Do you have first hand
knowledge of the claim you make? Are they grounded in any valid documentation? Or will we not hear from you again until time to come back to work tomorrow because you are an industry hack?
Yes to all three. I am an environmentalist, maybe just a different breed. I let facts and empirical observations influence my opinions. Not heresay and inflamatory (excuse the pun) statements.
I understand that one loses credibility when they are blind to bjectivity. I want to see drilling with less enviro impact, but you wackos are spoiling rational efforts. Because of people like TX Sharon, industry ‘hacks’ are less willing to compromise.
Please – we need more rational environmentalists.
Tim, how close is the nearest sour gas, amine gas plant, or compressor station to your living room? When you have been run from your home by gas drilling, tell us about it and then I might listen to your jibberish! Otherwise, you are just entertainment! Goodby.
Tim Ruggiero says
When it comes to drilling, Tim, last time I checked, it was supposed to be the operator that was regulated, not the homeowner. (not that we really have regulation, as we all know the TRRC is well into the pocket of Industry, but that’s another story)
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘rational’ environmentalist. Most ‘environmentalists’ I know are people who weren’t anything ‘environmentalist’ until some company like Range Resources parked their rusty leaking shit in their backyard, pumped huge plumes of diesel exhaust at them day and night, disrupted their sleep, fouled their air, ruined their water and destroyed their property values. These are the same people that when they complained, the operator reminded everyone that their right to extract minerals was greater than the property owner’s right to live in peace.
So, with that in mind, there’s not supposed to be any ‘compromise’ when it comes to drilling. The operator is to follow the regulations. If the TRRC wasn’t so corrupt and inept, people like Sharon Wilson probably would either not exist or have little impact. Sharon does the job that the TRRC and TCEQ refuse to do. The EPA is far from perfect, and quite frankly, hasn’t done all that much in Texas. For one thing, they are part of the federal government, and we all know how incredibly efficient that is. And secondly, where they can help, more often than not, Industry either has an exemption, a variance to a local ordinance, or simply fails to report because they know the odds of getting caught are slim-and if they do get caught, their buddies at the TRRC will give them a pass.
Please explain why you think Range Resources deserves their day in court, as you say, to defend their so-called good name. Did their stock crash? Did they get less opportunities to frack someone over? Have they decided just not to drill at all? Did Matt Pitzarella finally run out of lies to tell?
Either Drill Right or not at all. As Doctor, Scientist and Environmentalist, I would expect you should know that. Then again, Ed Ireland is a ‘doctor’ too, but doesn’t know the first damn thing about science that isn’t spoon fed to him by Industry. Knows a few things about shale economics, I suppose, but he probably should, having his doctorate in economics.
Since you obviously do not have a natural gas operation going on outside your back door, I’d say you have little experience and certainly little basis to form your opinions on. Get yourself a rig, compressor station, dehydration unit, pipeline next to your house, then we can talk about what an ‘environmentalist’ is.
I see your point, and i can tell your angry. You can complain about your situation, but understand there are good people on the other side who you are attempting to destroy. Ironically, you will lie and cheat to see them suffer- but you may nothave even realize thats what your doing.
You may not like the rules, the law that is, but you cant blame people for playing the game. When you gain their respect- and no i don’t mean they admire you- thats when you can make a difference.
And love him to death, but Dr. Al was an academic with zero practical experience. They ate his lunch.
Tim Ruggiero says
So now we the victims are the ones lying and cheating? That’s rich. The only individuals I criticize are the bought off politicians and the individuals who collect a paycheck from the TRRC or TCEQ. As far as companies go, there was a Landman posting in this blog, similar to you, and he got crushed with criticism. He found us, we did not go looking for him.
Most of us have become embroiled in this mess because it showed up in our back yards, against our will. To say that I ‘don’t like the law’ is a gross understatement and misrepresentation of the real issues. There are certainly plenty of laws out there that we don’t agree with, but for the most part, they all can be traced back to something that does make sense. The fact that mineral rights trump all other rights is unfair and unjust, but it is still the law. The real issue is the laws that exists the operators are supposed to follow and TRRC and TCEQ and even the EPA are supposed to be enforcing-but don’t. There are plenty of regulations on the books regarding oil and gas operations; unfortunately, there are painfully few that can even begin to enforce these rules and regulations, and the ones that try are more often than not, shot down by some suit in Austin. I’ve seen time and time again.
Following a multi-thousand gallon toxic waste spill, the local TRRC could only ‘recommend’ enforcement action. The suit in Austin dismissed it, and his report dismissing it was found to be dated PRIOR to the report the operator turned in that even explained what even happened. It was dismissed because the gigantic spill was ‘Unintentional’. I sure as hell hope it was unintentional. The BP spill-that was ‘unintentional’ too, wasn’t it?
So what this means is, as long as the operator did not INTEND to cause the leaks, spills, emissions, they aren’t accountable or responsible?
I’m sitting on a $15 parking ticket. Didn’t make back to the meter in time. I was going to send in a check, but I think now what I’ll do is just enclose a note stating that I didn’t INTENTIONALLY avoid paying the meter, so I’m sure the judge will give me a pass.
By the way, the idiot Landman that was posting on here said that the ‘regulations’ were in place to make sure everyone followed the rules, but that they were directed more to the irresponsible operators-that there were mostly GOOD operators out there. I challenged him to name just ONE Good Operator. That was weeks ago, no response. Since you brought it up, I’ll challenge you to the same- Name ONE Good person that’s on ‘The other side’. Sure, I have no doubt there are plenty of workers out there that are happy just to have a job and provide for their families. Those are not the people neither you or I are referring to; It’s the people in the corporate offices, the ones who make the decision to go piss all over someone and destroy their property, because, after all, the law says they can. So, if the law says they can, then it must be perfectly okay and moral to do so, right?
So, break out that lengthy list of all those GOOD people, all those executives, we’re all just dying to know who all those people are.
Atta boy Tim. No way I could do better to explain the way the s**ty system is in Tx., to this un-knowledgable and unexperienced Tim!
Mike Knapp says
Awww Mr. Ruggerio, do you really think that calling people names like a disgruntled 5 year old is going to advance your cause? Do you think your lengthy wandering hackneyed diatribes are the ticket?
You seem like a pretty intelligent guy. I hate to see you reducing yourself to this. The other Tim posting in this thread has it right. Like it or not, the gas industry is your neighbor, and I haven’t met any neighbor (and I met a few in my line of work) who responds better to vinegar than to honey.
Awww Mr. Knapp, do you really think that calling shale extraction victims names like “anti-gas drillers, fracktivist” or “wild and wacky Sharon Wilson (TXSharon)” is going to advance your cause?
Do you think your lengthy wandering hackneyed diatribes copied and pasted from the IED shills are the ticket?
Whatever happened to your declaration below? Seems you are incapable of following your own advice.
“You will save yourself much frustration by foregoing any attempts to engage her on a rational level and just ignoring her, like the rest of us blessed with critical thinking skills have chosen to do. Best of luck in your endeavors.
Knapp Acquisitions & Production”
Randy Verret says
I tend to side with Tim & Mike Knapp on this series. We NEED oil & gas and will continue to use it quite extensively for (probably) most of the rest of this century whether certain individuals like it (or not). The “calvary,” in the form of renewables & alternatives is all good, but it just can’t produce the SCALE of fuel or myriad of products we have become accustomed to in our modern society. To not look at this simple but relevant fact about oil & gas is like denying there is gravity. Why don’t we use our time & energy on an intellegent, realistic debate about what our national energy choices & ultimate policies should be? That is HARD WORK. There is no “Easy Button.” It’s not all black & white and not all oil industry folks are “shills” & “hacks” and not all environmentalists are “wackos.” We need to get serious and get to WORK on fixing our nation’s challenges, whether it’s energy, health care, foreign policy, national debt, etc. Let’s pick it up and elevate this debate. Our country deserves better…The longer we fiddle, Rome continues to burn…