Trey Loftin, the Judge in a High-Profile Fracking Case, is Bragging in Campaign Mailers About His EPA Nut-Kicking

Categories: Legal Battles

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Parker County Blog
Politics is politics, and incumbents running for re-election in conservative Parker County, Texas, where the local economy is fueled entirely by shale-gas production, want to look like champions of the industry. But what if you're a judge? And what if, at the very moment you put up fliers of Rush Limbaugh's beaming mug, asking, "Why is Rush Limbaugh congratulating Parker County's own Trey Loftin," and it's because he thinks you donkey-punched "Obama's EPA" in a watershed fracking lawsuit ... what if, at that very moment, you're still supposed to be the impartial arbiter in that case?

Should Steve Lipsky, who is a party to the lawsuit, and who Loftin has ruled against repeatedly, have much faith in a judge who brags about these rulings as though they're some sort of ideological litmus test burnishing his conservative credentials?

How about when he reads a mailer like this: "The EPA, using falsified evidence provided by a liberal activist environmental consultant, accused and fined a local gas driller of contaminating wells. Obama's EPA backed down only after Judge Trey Loftin ruled that the evidence was 'deceptive.'"

No ambiguity there. That's definitely Lipsky's case. What's he to make of that?

This is a long, circuitous tale (explored at length in a recent cover story) but it goes like this: Steve Lipsky is just some well-heeled guy out in rural Parker County. His water well is on the fritz. It just won't pump like it used to. Turns out, that's because it's suddenly producing natural gas. The Railroad Commission of Texas investigates. So does the EPA. Apparently, Range Resources has a couple of gas wells running beneath Lipsky's property. The EPA concludes Range is responsible for the gas and the dangerous levels of benzene in Lipsky's well.

The agency calls the Railroad Commission out for sitting on its hands, and issues an endangerment order against Range -- a first in the history of Texas oil and gas. The Railroad Commission shortly thereafter reaches a different conclusion: That Lipsky's gas is just natural, absolving Range.

Lipsky sues in Loftin's court. Loftin, however, says he can't sue in his court. He has to go to Austin. Unfortunately, the window to file has closed. Tough luck. However! Loftin says Range can sue Lipsky in his court. The judge believes Lipsky and his environmental consultant, Alisa Rich, made it all up in an attempt to defame Range and sully the industry. So Range sues. Lipsky appeals Loftin's ruling, citing a state law that prohibits abusive countersuits intended to silence whistleblowers. He's still waiting on a decision. Range's countersuit against Lipsky is for the moment on hold. But the appellate court says Range may conduct discovery against non-parties like fracking blogger Sharon Wilson while they wait.

Meanwhile, the EPA rescinds its endangerment order against Range. The company and Texas politicos tout it as a tacit admission of grave error. But it isn't clear whether the EPA was admitting defeat, or just achieving its ends by other means. As part of the settlement, Range agrees to conduct quarterly testing of surrounding water wells for a year.

And so Lipsky waits to see whether the state appeals court will let Range -- a company with $9 billion in outstanding shares and hundreds of thousands of leased acres -- take him to the mat. And now Loftin's campaign mailers circulate, crowing about how he shoved Obama's anti-energy agenda right up the EPA's ass -- and, by extension, up Steve Lipsky's ass.

H/T Parker County Blog


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14 comments
WCGasette
WCGasette

[...]

"'Meanwhile, the EPA rescinds its endangerment order against Range. The company and Texas politicos tout it as a tacit admission of grave error. But it isn't clear whether the EPA was admitting defeat, or just achieving its ends by other means. As part of the settlement, Range agrees to conduct quarterly testing of surrounding water wells for a year."

[...]

Very true.  Our understanding about what happened had more to do with another case recently decided by the Supreme Court...that decision ruled for a procedural clarification of due process.  The EPA took a clue from that loosely similar precedent and decided to go a different route to discover what happened with the Lipsky's water.

Republican politicos and the Railroad Commission of TX have done a major amount of spinning to make it appear that the EPA was admitting defeat.

WCGasette
WCGasette

You know, Judge Trey Loftin is just doing what all his conservative political friends are doing...bashing environmentalists and the EPA. Big problem there is...they are NOT judges presiding over a very serious case in Parker County.  Wow.  Somebody needs to tell "Judge" Loftin that he's a Judge and what that means. Seems if you have tell a judge that he's a judge then maybe he should go back to his political sugar daddies and ask for clarification.  With Rick Perry continuing to lead our state...it is now beyond stupid leadership. It is now about the dangerous leaders that are presiding in our courts of law.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

A misogynist, a judge, Range Resources: none of them have any integrity or credibility.Sharon Wilson is 100% honest and with 100% integrity. These guys are a-holes.

Uppercase Matt
Uppercase Matt

I wonder what the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct has to say about things like this?

"A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

"A judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism."

"A judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge's court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge's probable decision on any particular case.  This prohibition applies to any candidate for judicial office, with respect to judicial proceedings pending or impending in the court on which the candidate would serve if elected."

"A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not:

(1)  cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge"

"A statement made during a campaign for judicial office, whether or not prohibited by this Canon, may cause a judge's impartiality to be reasonably questioned in the context of a particular case and may result in recusal."

Huh.  Seems to me that there could be a motion for recusal and a complaint re the judge's behavior.

claytonauger
claytonauger

Thanks very much for providing a really good summary and more information than months worth of S-T coverage. I'd add DMN too, but they weren't covering it at all. 

RTGolden
RTGolden

It seems rather naive to believe that an elected judge, given modern American politics, will be an impartial arbiter of any case that comes before the bench.  Got to admire the brazen nature of this move though.  Might as well just hang a sign over the bench saying "Bought".

Paul
Paul

I thought that the Tal-i-ban Re-pub-li-cants were against activist judges who legislated from the bench and catered to special interests ....

Oh ... wait a minute ... only when it is their special interests and bench legislation that they like  ....

I just love Texas, it has the best politicians that money can buy.

Be sure and vote for the dead possum this fall!

observist
observist

Ugh.  The only thing worse than appointed judges is elected judges.

Tdhg
Tdhg

Yeah and they call congressmen honorable still.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

 and your point is...............................

Randy Altschuler
Randy Altschuler

 And Democrats are all for them, yes? So you should love this guy. And what happened to Democrats ripping anyone who dared criticize judges, bleating about the "independent judiciary." Funny how that only applies selectively. I don't know who this judge is and whether he sucks or is great, but I do know a hypocrite when I see one -- and anyone who's going to smear one party as members of the Taliban isn't a serious person. I don't like it about Obama or any other American. The only Taliban is the Taliban.

Paul
Paul

 Calling a congressman "honorable" is very much like the expensive Swiss finishing school where young ladies of respectable and wealthy parents learn to say "How nice!" instead of "F*** You!"

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