I’m going to list my
three five favorite things about this Daily Beast article.
Can You Silence a Child? Inside the Hallowich Case
by Caitlin Dickson Sep 1, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
1. I love the way the fracking scam is summed up in the first paragraph.
For anyone who lives near a natural gas shale, the story of the Hallowich family of Washington County, Pennsylvania, is a familiar one. It begins with a knock on the door from a representative from a multi-billion dollar natural gas company offering an enticing sum of money in exchange for the mineral rights to the land. Then comes the drilling, followed by reports of headaches, or nosebleeds, or worse. Then the legal fees. Then silence.
2. I love the warning to other cities, counties, states and countries given by Doug Shields.
But Pennsylvanians, as well as people sitting on natural gas shales around the country, would soon discover that fracking is unlike anything they’d ever encountered before. By the time Stephanie Hallowich and others complained of headaches and nosebleeds and contaminated water, Shields says, “it was too late for anyone to do anything politically effective.”
3. I love how Matt Pitzarella again disavows that Range intended to gag the children despite the somewhat threatening letter from David Poole who is the Range general counsel. In his letter he admits that–regarding the Hallowich non-disclosure agreement–the buck stops with him. He admits full responsibility for “negotiating and approving the terms.”
Matt Pitzarella objects strongly to the way the story has played out. “To be very clear, the agreement was never intended to be applied to the elementary school aged children,” he wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.
4. And I love how Pitzarella–again–runs that bus right over the attorney and one of the most prestigious law firms in the whole country. (Are you watching Andy and Haynes and Boone?)
“one of several made by a former outside counsel to Range, who never informed us of the questions surrounding the children. When we learned of it, we immediately sent a letter to the plaintiff’s attorney.” Swetz is no longer employed by the prestigious law firm K&L Gates, where he was working at the time of the Hallowich hearing. He’s also no longer representing Range Resources.
5. But my very favorite thing comes in the last paragraph when the Hallowich lawyer, Peter Villari, sets the record straight about how it went down and that there is an awkward silence in response to his letter inviting the companies involved to withdraw the gag on the children.
Hallowich lawyer Villari doesn’t deny receiving the letter, but he isn’t buying any of it. “There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the moment [Swetz] opened his mouth he was speaking on Range’s behalf. He did what he was hired to do.” Villari said that he sent a letter in response to Range Resources, MarkWest Energy and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream—the companies involved in the original settlement agreement—inviting all of them to enter into a joint stipulation withdrawing the gag order against the children. No one has responded. In fact, other than Range Resources, the rest of the defendants in the agreement have, like the Hallowiches, remained silent.
The Hallowich children are still gagged.
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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Alberta Neighbor says
“Villari said that he sent a letter in response to Range Resources, MarkWest Energy and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream—the companies involved in the original settlement agreement—inviting all of them to enter into a joint stipulation withdrawing the gag order against the children. No one has responded. In fact, other than Range Resources, the rest of the defendants in the agreement have, like the Hallowiches, remained silent.”
“No one has responded.” That might interfere in industry’s quest to shut everyone up.
“… several families who’ve been vocal in their complaints say Baytex is also trying to solve these issues on its own.
Two families say the company has offered to buy their land, attaching extensive non-disclosure clauses to the contract.
One contract obtained by Global News would prevent the family and its ‘heirs, successors or assigns’ from speaking with the media or encouraging others to speak to the media about Baytex other than to say that ‘We decided to move out of the area, away from the oil activity. We have reached an agreement with Baytex concerning our situation.’
The contract also includes clauses prohibiting the family from communicating with ‘any elected or non-elected representatives or officials concerning Baytex or its Affiliates,’ and from making any ‘disparaging’ or ‘derogatory’ remarks about Baytex to anyone.
Baytex refused to comment on the contract or confirm it had made any offers to purchase land.
‘Any service agreements or disputes that might arise, they would be governed by the appropriate dispute resolution process. … And all of that work is truly bound by confidentiality agreements. All parties, us and others, would be bound by that confidentiality,’ Ector said.
While this sort of non-disclosure agreement is not common in general land sales, ‘it is very common in land acquisitions in the energy industry,’ said David Percy, professor of energy law and policy at the University of Alberta.
He said energy companies have an interest in keeping land purchase prices, and even the fact that they are looking to purchase land, secret – disclosing these things could potentially drive up future prices.
But when it comes to the larger effect on a community, he said, ‘It certainly does carry the risk of suppressing comment, absolutely.’
Hughes said this is the first he’s heard of such a non-disclosure clause and he would like to examine the issue further.
‘I would discourage anybody from ever trying to discourage citizens from talking to their elected officials, because that would be inappropriate,’ he said.”
Yes Ken, that would be inappropriate.
Thank goodness we have such a huge moral compass here in Alberta. I can’t imagine where we’d find ourselves if these moral and ethical politicians weren’t pretending to run the show …
Another Alberta Neighbour says
Thank you Sharon, for another excellent post.
Ami(e)s du Richelieu translated the article (their site gets a lot of visits from France):
Peut-on empêcher un enfant de parler? Le cas des Hallowich
And thank you Alberta Neighbor, I hadn’t seen that article or the excellent news clips on the disgusting gag order attempts by Baytex. It’s encouraging to see Albertans say no. Bravo.
I’m not surprised the elected officials and energy regulators say regulations were not breached. Reportedly, they’ve been busy altering data and covering up, as usual.
“It’s crazy how toxic this stuff is.”
Also, as usual:
“It’s not something that happened. It’s still happening.”
Alberta Neighbor says
“Reportedly, they’ve been busy altering data and covering up, as usual.”
What?! Does Ken know about this, because we know what he would say …
Dimock again: Another incident where you’ll likely have silence, or, only hear crickets after asking about. “A spokesman tells us that the company is in the process of selling it to someone and that the house had be razed to get the property ready for the new owner.”
Why tear down a house, if the water is OK? Other issues at play? Termites lethal to humans there? Poltergeists? An interior designer with bad karma? Jackalope damage? All the other reasons for tearing down that home don’t pass the smell test!
On the other hand, one major petroleum pipeline had a leak near Atlanta, so, they bought the homes of those affected there, then, the pipeline turned around, & leased the homes to other people, and may not have even told them about the pipeline leak. Maybe Cabot & others could push for a change in the PA Real Estate law, so that contaminated water & land don’t have to be revealed to buyers.
Former Sautner House Torn Down
“A well known house in Dimock, Pennsylvania was torn down. For several years, the Sautner family house on Carter Road was basically the epicenter of the fracking debate and was even shown in movies.The Sautner’s said that fracking operations in the area had ruined their water supply. However, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said the water was fine. Eventually the federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in. For a time, the EPA paid for water deliveries, but finally concluded that the water was safe and stopped.
Cabot Oil and Gas bought the house from the Sautner’s last year. A spokesman tells us that the company is in the process of selling it to someone and that the house had be razed to get the property ready for the new owner.”
Maybe they will put in a big processing plant there.
“This petition will be delivered to Range Resources Corporation, Mark West Energy Partners, and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners.”
Nothing like some free, but bad, publicity.