Family doesn’t pursue lawsuit in cancer death blamed on fracking chemicals

The legal case of a Rifle man who died of cancer he believed came from working with hydraulic-fracturing chemicals has been dismissed after his family failed to pursue it.

Jose Lara won court approval to give a deposition last year so his testimony would be preserved should he die before a possible lawsuit went forward.

Lara died later in the year, but his family never proceeded with a suit, prompting 9th Judicial District Court Judge Denise Lynch to dismiss the matter earlier this year based on a “failure to prosecute.”

Lara’s attorney, Paul Gertz, did not respond to requests for comment, and Lara’s widow could not be reached. Gertz previously has said secrecy regarding fracking fluids’ chemical constituents made pursuing the case difficult.

Lara worked for Rain for Rent for about a half-dozen years, climbing inside tanks to power-wash them after they’d been emptied of fracking fluids used in area oil and gas wells. A year ago, he said in an interview that the work made him dizzy, and he believes it led to him getting terminal pancreatic and liver cancer.

His petition to perpetuate his testimony named Calfrac Well Services Corp., BJ Services Co., Halliburton Energy Services Inc., Frac Tech Services and Schlumberger Water Services USA as companies “expected to be adverse parties” in a lawsuit.

In written responses to the petition, BJ Services and Schlumberger denied having manufactured or provided products that may have caused pancreatic or liver cancer.

Frac Tech said it denies “any allegation that it manufactured or provided any products that caused Petitioner Lara’s claimed injuries … .”

Lara’s petition noted that diesel fuel, which contains the carcinogen benzene, sometimes has been used in fracking fluids. Gertz said at the time that he didn’t know if it has been used locally, but he suspected it has been.

Gertz included with Lara’s petition a February 2010 memo from U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, then chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and committee member Edward Markey. It said Halliburton reported using diesel fuel from 2005–07 in 15 states, and BJ Services said it used diesel for some frack jobs in Arkansas and Oklahoma during the same time.

In a court filing, Halliburton denied being “legally responsible for having been a cause for any alleged injury, illness or damages” to Lara or exposing him to any toxic materials.

Schlumberger and BJ Services said they didn’t rent any tanks from Rain for Rent during the previous six years. Frac Tech also said it didn’t rent out tanks from Rain for Rent for storing liquids and chemicals used during fracking.

KEYSTONE — Fire crews say they have made progress fighting three major wildfires burning in Colorado.

A wildfire near Keystone resort was declared fully contained Saturday night. Investigators say a power line ignited the fire during high winds Thursday.

In southwest Colorado, federal fire managers were handing control of two wildfires back to local personnel. A lightning-sparked 6,885-acre fire about 20 miles north of Ramos, N.M., and a 6,140-acre nearby were both considered contained. Together, the fires burned around 20 square miles.


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