Judge tosses suit claiming health harm by Antero

A judge has tossed out a lawsuit in which a family had accused Antero Resources of harming their health through its oil and gas operations on Silt Mesa.

Denver District Court Judge Ann Frick found that lawyers for Bill and Beth Strudley had failed to provide enough evidence of chemical exposure or a causal link to the operations to warrant going through discovery and further court proceedings.

“Though the evidence shows existence of certain gases and compounds in both the air and water of Plaintiffs’ Silt home, there is neither sufficient data nor expert analysis stating with any level of probability that a causal connection does in fact exist between Plaintiffs’ injuries and Plaintiffs’ exposure to Defendants’ drilling activities,” Frick wrote in this week’s ruling.

The lawsuit also had named Frontier Drilling LLC and Calfrac Well Services as defendants.

The Strudleys sued over alleged health impacts resulting from exploratory wells Antero drilled on Silt Mesa in 2010. The Strudleys say fumes and water contamination led to them suffering from burning eyes and throats, rashes, headaches and other maladies.

The family moved from the Silt area the following January.

Their attorneys allege in a court filing that Antero also contaminated other water wells near its gas well closest to the former Strudley home.

Strudley attorney Corey Zurbuch called the judge’s ruling “extremely disappointing.”

“We found it surprising. We’re looking at our options for appeal,” he said.

Dan Dunn, an attorney representing Antero, said: “Antero’s confidence in the judicial/legal system has been confirmed and justice has been done. Truly our judicial system has worked and delivered a very just result.”

In support of her ruling, Frick pointed to a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determination that the Strudleys’ well water wasn’t affected by oil and gas operations. She also cited the defendants’ testimony that the oil and gas operations were conducted according to commission and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rules designed to protect health and the environment.

Frick is a judicial appointee of former Gov. Bill Ritter, who had led a controversial effort in which the COGCC rewrote its rules in 2008 to better protect the environment and public health.

Antero also is the target of a suit by Battlement Mesa residents concerned about the potential health impacts of proposed drilling in that community and existing operations nearby. Following preliminary rulings by a judge, the plaintiffs recently dropped claims in the suit for medical monitoring and for compensation for purported drops in property values.


COMMENTS

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The COGCC rules do not require pre and post testing of air, soil, and water quality. Until there is a baseline established, it will be difficult to prove any property damages in court. The CDPHE, has likewise no base data, and has conducted no controled scientific experiments to determine if there are health issues associated with increased exposure to chemicals used during the life-cycle of a well.

The system should remain suspicious of these types of lawsuits to prevent fraud. Isn’t it interesting that they found out that the gas coming out of the “faucet on fire” promoted by the anti-fracking fanatics was actually caused by naturally occuring formation gas in the water well zone, and not gas from a drilling site? People will sue for anything to make a buck.

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