In Fight Over Flammable Parker County Water Well, Judge Decides Who Is, Isn't A Journalist

Categories: Legal Battles

flaming faucet.jpg
Monica Fuentes
Tricky work deciding who gets the protections of a journalist in court. In the case of a natural gas production company suing a Parker County man who blames it for contaminating his water well, state district Judge Trey Loftin attempted to suss it out in a recent order compelling fracking blogger Sharon Wilson (known as Texas Sharon) to cough up personal emails pertaining to the case.

"They have this thing in there where I have to turn over all communications from 2005 with the word 'range' in it," Wilson says. "And that's absurd. They're trying to build their intelligence database, and I'm not gonna turn over a bunch of people who might have emailed me a newspaper article."

Wilson's is one of the big voices in the Barnett Shale. Her blog often features videos, shot by herself and others, revealing the prodigious emissions of flowback operations, or the dangers of drill-site spills of fracking fluids flowing back out of wells -- the ugly, dirty side of an industry hidden in plain sight on county back roads. Is it the proportion of her income that excludes her from the practice of journalism, as Loftin concludes? Her lack of a background in journalism? Her lack of "objectivity?"

Then we can rule out Fox News and much of the conservative and liberal blogosphere, can't we?

Even if Wilson's blog does, in fact, disseminate newsworthy information (I don't always agree with her, but the blog is definitely plugged in) Loftin says that "interests in discovering the truth and in the fair administration of justice are substantial and outweigh any interests in the gathering and dissemination of news."

The truth and justice being sought (subject of a recent cover story) is for Fort-Worth based natural gas producer Range Resources and its ongoing defamation suit against Steve Lipsky, a Parker County man who says Range's production activities turned his once-functional water well into a flamethrower. Range says Lipsky's accusations were part of a grand scheme to sully its reputation, and that Wilson, who posted on her blog the video of a flaming hose attached to Lipsky's water wellhead, was a willing accomplice. Her alleged communications with Lipsky, the EPA and Lipsky's environmental consultant, Alisa Rich, Range argues, could provide ammunition for its case.

"[Loftin] decided I was a central figure in this conspiracy and it would be a lot easier for Range to get the stuff they need from the EPA and the DOJ and (the Government Accountability Office) from me rather than by doing open records requests to those agencies, which would inconvenience Range," Wilson said.

A state appeals court in Fort Worth is currently considering whether Range's defamation suit against Lipsky is a violation of the Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, intended only to silence him with lengthy and expensive litigation. While Range discovery against Lipsky is out of bounds for now, non-parties like Wilson are fair game.

My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Tim Ruggiero
Tim Ruggiero

Range Resources has some serious credibility problems, and it continues to grow. Might explain why they are going on the attack. How dare one individual reveal their dirty business practices? Not to be out done, now the judge, Trey Loftin is developing some credibility issues of his own. Bragging about how he 'smacked down' the EPA and that his decisions led to the EPA backing off? Does this sound fair and impartial to you, or does it sound like not only Loftin has already decided how this will end, he's publicly announcing it? 

WCGasette
WCGasette

I must disagree with this assumption, Mr. Brantley:  " Her blog...revealing the prodigious emissions of flowback operations, or the dangers of drill-site spills of fracking fluids flowing back out of wells---the ugly, dirty side of an industry hidden in plain sight on county back roads." 

These heavy, industrial mining operations are in our neighborhoods in southwestern Dallas County and at the border of Tarrant and Dallas County. It's all over the Joe Pool Lake Area in Dallas, Tarrant and Johnson counties.  It's in plain sight if you live in these communities not that far from Dallas. It's just real easy to drive past a site if visiting the western parts of the region...but if the industry gets its way, it will be all over Dallas, too, in very "plain sight" as well.

I highly recommend everyone take a drive, look around. Don't think we are making this up. It has happened quickly. There is a lull right now. But so much has been invested in all of it...and so few that have the MOST to gain from it (monetarily) live anywhere near it.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Range should back off, the judge should recuse, and Rush should STFU.

claytonauger
claytonauger

When polluters run out of other options, they start bullying. That's what this is, pure and simple.

pak152
pak152

I think i'll sit back with some popcorn and pop this should prove interesting

""They have this thing in there where I have to turn over all communications from 2005 with the word 'range' in it," Wilson says. "And that's absurd."not really that is called discovery and I suspect that there are other search terms being use. TxSharon is what is known as a 3rd party to a lawsuit. this happens all the time in litigation.I suspect that there are more search terms besides "range" being used.and since she is involved in the litigation she needs to make sure she doesn't delete/discard any information relevant to the litigation otherwise she could be looking at a claim for spoliation.

best bet? get yourself an attorney

Tim Ruggiero
Tim Ruggiero

She's not a Third party because she's a not a party at all. Range has sucked her into it and got this ethics challenged judge to sign off on it. Let's review, shall we? Parker County homeowner sues Range Resources based on testing that the EPA did. The homeowner at some point afterwards-afterwards as in AFTER the EPA got involved sent Sharon Wilson a video of the flaming water, and she then posted it on her blog. Range knows they have a credibility problem, so now they are throwing God only knows how much money at defending their 'good name' after they wee the ones who put themselves in the spotlight. This is not the first homeowner that Range has run over.

There's a simple solution here: Drill Better, Suck Less. 

Oh, no. I used the word 'Range' on a blog. Guess I'll be getting a subpoena soon.

NewsDog
NewsDog

If the judge decides that the evidence that the water catches fire isn't admissable then the water catching fire doesen't exist in the courts eyes.  

Larry
Larry

Need to look into that judge's  campaign contributions.

If the water catches fire, then the truth is an absolute defense against harassment by Range.

Tim Ruggiero
Tim Ruggiero

He's taken in quite a lot of cash for a district judge. No direct contributions from any oil and gas companies, but certainly from oil and gas attorneys and/or their firms. 

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...