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

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

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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?

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^ I'd think so too.

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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. 

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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?

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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.

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

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

 

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

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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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

Fracking is a very scary thing...  To make matters worse, areas that are purchasing the gas collected through fracking are finding that it has high levels of Radon, a cancer causing gas, which they are now pumping into their homes...

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Plus, just the interest from that much would make a very nice nest egg.

 

I presume they have to use the money to buy a new house.

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What would you invest in to earn interest ?

even at the interbank rates of 0.02% you'd make $1,500 a year in interest :rofl:  gawd I remember the days when you could make $50k+ a year in interest on that amount of money... those days... only 5yrs ago right before the bubble burst

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even at the interbank rates of 0.02% you'd make $1,500 a year in interest 

I know I'm bad at math but my calculator says that $750,000 * 2% = $15,000.

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Yeah, that court order will probably go away after one or two appeals playing the "1st amendment" card... Im sorry, unless they have 24/7 audio survallience, there is no way to keep a couple kids from talking about it

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Yeah, that court order will probably go away after one or two appeals playing the "1st amendment" card... Im sorry, unless they have 24/7 audio survallience, there is no way to keep a couple kids from talking about it

 

There is no court order nor is there a 1st amendment violation. This was a settlement agreed to by the company and the parents. The children aren't bound to anything and can talk about whatever they want to. Their parents just lose their settlement payment if they do, which is a condition they agreed to and signed.

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I know I'm bad at math but my calculator says that $750,000 * 2% = $15,000.

that's 2% not 0.2% you're a few decimal places off :p

 

and I just noticed I wrote 0.02%, that should of been 0.2% above

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Fracking is a very scary thing...  To make matters worse, areas that are purchasing the gas collected through fracking are finding that it has high levels of Radon, a cancer causing gas, which they are now pumping into their homes...

 

Why would they be pumping Radon into houses?

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Fracking is a very scary thing...  To make matters worse, areas that are purchasing the gas collected through fracking are finding that it has high levels of Radon, a cancer causing gas, which they are now pumping into their homes...

 

Well, as long as they're not snorting it... :p

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Saw a documentary a year or so ago about fracking in a part of the US where many people suffered from tap water catching on fire, they even showed examples of it happening. Wonder if this family is one of those residents? Seemed to be a huge issue in that area anyway.

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