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Oil Company Claims Conspiracy in Family’s Lawsuit over Contaminated Water

Range Resources (“Range”) has filed a countersuit against a family that sued Range for alleged methane contamination of their water, claiming that the family “conspired to produce misleading test results to get the EPA involved in the case.”[1]

Parker County, Texas, residents Steven and Shlya Lipsky hired an environmental scientist to test their water for suspected methane contamination from Range’s shale extraction operations.  The environmental scientist urged the couple to contact EPA.  After conducting its own investigation, EPA concluded that the the drilling undertakings of Range “caused or contributed” to the contamination of two water wells in Parker County, including the Lipsky’s well.  EPA filed an emergency order against range in December 2010 requiring the company to determine the source of contamination and correct it.

Range had allegedly already begun investigating the matter with the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), the state agency that oversees the oil and gas industry, before the EPA began their investigation.   The EPA sued Range for refusing to comply with its emergency order in January 2011.  The RRC concluded their investigation in March 2011, finding that Range’s drilling activities were not the source of the methane contamination.  The EPA case is currently on hold while a federal appeals court considers Range’s appeal of the EPA’s emergency order from back in December.

Still without clean water, the Lipskys took matters into their own hands and filed a suit in the state district court against Range.  Range fired back with a countersuit against the Lipskys, alleging that the Lipsky had conspired with their environmental scientist to produce misleading test results. Range contends, “It has spent more than $3 million to defend itself and suffered ‘significant harm to its well-deserved reputation as a high-quality driller and operator’ in the Barnett Shale.”[2] Allen Stewart, the Lipsky’s attorney, characterized the countersuit as a “far-fetched fairy tale.”[3] The Lipskys’ lawsuit seeks $6.5 million for actual damages and mental anguish.

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