Gag Order Bars 2 Children from Ever Discussing Fracking by Democracy Now, August 8, 2013
The gas drilling firm, Range Resources, has come under fire following revelations it imposed a gag order on a Pennsylvania couple that prevented their children from ever talking about fracking. … Transcripts show that during a hearing, a lawyer for Range Resources said the gag order applies to the whole family and would be enforced that way. At the time of the settlement, the couple’s children were seven and 10 years old. Last week a company spokesperson denied the gag order applies to the children.
UPDATED: Range Resources General Counsel David Poole Breaks Hallowich Non-Disclosure Agreement by TXSHARON, AUGUST 7, 2013, Bluedaze
I’ve heard that a coyote will chew its own leg off when caught in a trap. That was my first thought when I read the breaking news that, after a PR nightmare week where they became a worldwide disgrace for gagging two small children, Range Resorces’ David Poole wrote a letter releasing the Hallowich children from the gag.
So, go ahead kids! Let loose with those “illegal words.”
But, in his haste to get out of the PR nightmare trap he created, Mr. Poole forgot that he is also bound by the gag–the first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. I bet the other parties, Mark West and Williams, are thrilled with Mr. Poole. … You can read a copy of Mr. Poole’s letter HERE.
Hallowich children not part of Marcellus Shale gag order agreement, Settlement entered with gas drillers by Don Hopey, August 7, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In another bizarre twist in a case that has attracted international attention, a Range Resources attorney now says that the lifetime gag order preventing the Hallowiches from saying anything ever about Marcellus Shale gas drilling or companies involved in its development, doesn’t apply to their two small children. The case, which has become a public relations problem for the Marcellus Shale gas development companies involved, was initiated by Stephanie and Chris Hallowich, who claimed that multiple shale gas wells, compressor stations and a water impoundment surrounding their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Washington County, had sickened their family and damaged the value of their property. … A transcript of the settlement hearing, from which Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters were barred by the court almost two years ago, was released last week at the paper’s request and showed that the attorney representing Range said the gag order applied to the children and “we would certainly enforce it.” But Range’s general counsel David Poole disavowed that statement in an Aug. 2 letter sent to the Hallowiches’ attorney, Peter Villari, after the Post-Gazette stories on the hearing transcript appeared. In his letter, Mr. Poole said the “non-disparagement language” in the settlement applies to the Hallowich parents, but “Range has never, at any time, had the intention of seeking to hold a minor child legally accountable for a breach of that provision of the settlement agreement.”
Mr. Villari called claims that the shale gas companies didn’t want the gag order applied to the Hallowich children “ridiculous.” He said he sent a response to Mr. Poole this week refuting each point in the Range letter, and called on him to make it public. He said he couldn’t release his letter because making it public could be interpreted by the shale gas companies as a violation of the confidentiality agreement that binds the lawyers as well as the Hallowiches. “This letter from Mr. Poole was nothing more than an attempt to backtrack and do damage control for a situation involving the gag order that Range Resources and the other companies created,” Mr. Villari said. “During the settlement agreement negotiations the gag order was discussed and argued, and in the end they insisted on a blanket gag order or there would be no settlement.”
Frederick Frank, the attorney representing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in its effort to have the confidential settlement agreement made public, said Tuesday that Mr. Poole’s letter makes repeated references to information contained in that document. “In order to defend themselves they’ve opened up their kimono,” Mr. Frank said. “My position is they’ve totally waived the confidentiality of the agreement by releasing the letter [to a cable network], and we will seek the appropriate remedy from the court.” [Emphasis added]
Une famille réduite au silence par l’industrie du gaz de schiste by Agence France-Presse Washington, August 6, 2013, Lapress.ca
Gag order bars US children from fracking talk by Agence France-Presse, August 6, 2013, MSN News
Two children aged seven and 10 have been told they are banned for life from discussing fracking under an oil company settlement reached in the US state of Pennsylvania.
Former Pa. judge hired by Parnell administration OK’d lifetime gag order on children in 2011 fracking lawsuit by Katie Toupe, August 5, 2013, Anchorage Daily News
Paul Pozonsky, the former Pennsylvania judge briefly hired by the Parnell administration as an Alaska workers’ compensation hearing officer even though he was under investigation for stealing cocaine from Pennsylvania trial evidence envelopes, signed off on a fracking lawsuit settlement in 2011 that may have included the first lifetime gag order ever intended to be enforced on minor children. When the plaintiffs’ attorney questioned whether that aspect of the settlement was even constitutional, a newly released transcript shows, Pozonsky replied simply, “That’s a law school question, I guess.”
Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking, Two Pennsylvanian children will live their lives under a gag order imposed under a $750,000 settlement by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, August 5, 2013, The Guardian
The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Ltd, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates. The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs’ son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America’s shale gas boom. The Hallowich family had earlier accused oil and gas companies of destroying their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and putting their children’s health in danger. Their property was adjacent to major industrial operations: four gas wells, gas compressor stations, and a waste water pound, which the Hallowich family said contaminated their water supply and caused burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.
Gag orders – on adults – are typical in settlements reached between oil and gas operators and residents in the heart of shale gas boom in Pennsylvania. But the company lawyer’s insistence on extending the lifetime gag order to the Hallowichs’ children gave even the judge pause, according to the court documents. The family gag order was a condition of the settlement. The couple told the court they agreed because they wanted to move to a new home away from the gas fields, and to raise their children in a safer environment. “We need to get the children out of there for their health and safety,” the children’s mother, Stephanie Hallowich, told the court. … The children’s father, Chris Hallowich, went on to tell the court it might be difficult to ensure the children’s absolute silence on fracking – given that their ages and that the family lives in the middle of a shale gas boom. “They’re going to be among other children that are children of people within this industry and they’re going to be around it every day of their life, that if they in turn say one of the illegal words when they’re outside of our guardianship we’re going to have difficulty controlling that,” he said. “We can tell them, they can not say this, they can not say that, but if on the playground…..”
Campaigners say the secrecy has helped the industry resist more stringent environmental and health controls – by burying evidence of water contamination and health problems associated with natural gas operations. [Emphasis added]
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