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Children Given Gag Order In Fracking Lawsuit

pennsylvania nondisclosure agreement oil and gas companies marcellus shale contaminated drinking water

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#1 Hum

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 13:53

Two Pennsylvania children have been banned from talking about shale gas drilling, or fracking, for what appears to be the rest of their lives by the terms of a legal settlement reached between their parents, Chris and Stephanie Hallowich, and three oil and gas companies who lead drilling operations at the state’s Marcellus Shale.

Though the Hallowiches consented to the terms of the $750,000 settlement in 2011, the details, including the familywide gag order, were made public just last week after a request by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to unseal telling court documents.

Nondisclosure agreements, or gag orders, are routine in many types of settlements—including those between citizens and oil and gas companies involved in controversial fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which releases natural gas for energy. Often, the orders ensure that the public doesn’t know how much money was paid in a settlement.

“In this case, I think it’s about more than money,” Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, told Yahoo! Shine. Earthjustice, a public-interest environmental law organization, filed a brief in support of the Post Gazette’s effort to unseal the Hallowich-case court documents. It has also compiled records showing that nondisclosure agreements are the norm in settlements involving fracking. “It’s part of an industry campaign of secrecy, in which companies do everything they can to prevent the public from knowing the connection between what [fracking] does and how it’s harmful to both people’s health and the environment.”

Still, a gag order that applies to minors is relatively unheard of, say law experts.

“It’s unusual,” Peter Villari, attorney for the Hallowiches, told Yahoo! Shine. Jesse Choper, professor of public law at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed. “It’s unusual that you’re binding little kids to a nondisclosure agreement,” he said.

Jessie Allen, an assistant professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Post Gazette, “My reaction is it’s kind of over the top.”

The Hallowiches, former anti-fracking activists, had been living on a 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant when they brought a lawsuit against Range Resources, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream and MarkWest Energy. They claimed that the adjacent Marcellus Shale operations damaged the health of their family, including their children, then 7 and 10, by causing burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and earaches.

They also claimed operations contaminated their drinking water and rendered their property worthless. They had purchased it in 2005, unknowingly inheriting a lease with Range Resources. Soon after the Hallowiches built their house in 2007, gas wells, access roads, a gas-processing facility and compressor stations were constructed on bordering properties, bringing with them noise, lights and emissions, according to reports.

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#2 Growled

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 16:05

My first thought is that someone payed them a lot of money to hide something they didn't want to become public knowledge.



#3 OP Hum

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:20

I wonder if the tap water caught fire ....



#4 +Nik L

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:25

How is this even legal?  I mean, yes the parents are legal guardians, and deal with all that - but when they reach legal age - surely they can say anything they want.  They never signed anything themselves?



#5 OP Hum

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:27

^ I'd think so too.



#6 Edrick Smith

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:31

Anyone ever heard of A Civil Action? The property right next to my office was a dumping site for major toxins. It's sad how often companies can get away with destroying the environment and killing people. 



#7 Shadrack

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:41

You guys need to realize that the gag order was part of the settlement.  If the kids were to violate the gag order, their parents may be liable to pay back the 700k that was part of the settlement.  Doesn't matter what age they are.  The parents agreed to the terms of the settlement and if they can't keep their end of the bargain then they could be sued and forced to return the 700k.

 

The kids can do whatever they want, really.  Nothing bad will happen to them directly if they come out and say whatever they want to say.  No legal action can be taken directly at them.  If they come out and say something then legal action can be taken against their parents.

 

If a friend of the family were told all the nitty-gritty details of the ordeal and then came out and disclosed that to the public it would be a similar situation.  Keeping the details of the settlement a secret is what these people agreed to.  If they can't do that then they aren't holding their end of the bargain, now are they?



#8 +Nik L

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 22:50

I think you need to realise the kids signed no such agreement and should not be held to anything.  The agreement is between the company and the parents.  Kids can say what they want, after the age of 18 the parents are no longer responsible for that.  It certainly should not affect any legal standing the parents have entered into.



#9 Growled

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 13:37

Honestly, for $750,000 I could keep real quiet for the rest of my life.



#10 LaP

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 13:40

Honestly, for $750,000 I could keep real quiet for the rest of my life.

 

I dunno. $750 000 is not much these days ....



#11 Growled

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 14:26

I dunno. $750 000 is not much these days ....

It's $750,499 more than I have right now. Plus, just the interest from that much would make a very nice nest egg.



#12 vetneufuse

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 14:37

It's $750,499 more than I have right now. Plus, just the interest from that much would make a very nice nest egg.

might want to check your math :rofl:



#13 Growled

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 14:51

^ Oops!!!!! That's what I get for posting before I get my third cup of coffee. :D



#14 exotoxic

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 14:54

Hopefully someone is doing some "investigation" in to fracking and they will leak all the secret stuff the fracking companies don't want us to know.



#15 OP Hum

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 15:09

It's $750,499 more than I have right now. Plus, just the interest from that much would make a very nice nest egg.

What would you invest in to earn interest ?





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