Courthouse News Service
WEATHERFORD, Texas (CN) – A couple says the well water for their $5 million “dream house” west of Fort Worth has become flammable because of natural gas drilling – and the drilling company had the brass to accuse them of trying to profit by it by seeking a lower tax valuation and phonying up “little videos for the people out there.”
Steven and Shyla Lipsky say both the EPA and the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production in Texas, have traced the problem to drilling by defendant Range Resources Corp.
The Lipskys also sued the developer, Silverado on the Brazos Development Co., which they say promised them that there would be no oil or gas drilling in their development.
The Lipskys say they moved into Silverado on the Brazos, in Weatherford, in 2001, and over the years bought up multiple lots and put $4.5 million into their “dream house,” which they moved into in September 2009.
Three months later, they began having problems with their well water, and by the summer of 2010, they say, the water had become flammable.
Samples collected in August 2010 “showed the presence of benzene, toluene, dissolved ethane and a large amount of dissolved methane,” according to the complaint in Parker County Court.
They say they learned from the Texas Railroad Commission that defendants Range Resources and Range Production Co. had started drilling for gas in August 2009 within 120 feet of their well, within the boundaries of the development.
The Lipskys say the EPA confirmed it: “In a December 7, 2010 federal enforcement order, the EPA concluded that the hydrocarbons contained in the Lipskys’ water well were likely due to impacts from Range Resources’ gas development and production activities in the Silverado,” the complaint says.
“The EPA further concluded that the hydrocarbons in the Lipskys’ water well pose a variety of health risks.”
Then, the Lipskys say, Range Resources accused them of trying to profit from this.
“On April 7, 2011, Andrew Sims, outside counsel for Range Resources and Range Resources’ attorney in matters before the Texas Railroad Commission and the EPA was the speaker at a continuing legal education seminar in Fort Worth, Texas titled, ‘The Rest of the Story – The EPA Order Against Range Resources.’ The speech concerned the EPA’s December 7, 2010 federal enforcement order against his client, Range Resources, wherein the EPA concluded that the hydrocarbons contained in the plaintiffs’ well water were likely due to impacts from Range Resources’ gas development and production activities in the Silverado.
“In his remarks to the roomful of lawyers attending the seminar, Andrew Sims referred to plaintiff Steven Lipsky by name and told the group that Lipsky is ‘trying to use this gas to his advantage.’ Mr. Sims told the crowd that Mr. Lipsky hooked a green hose to the vent so he could close the valve to allow gas to accumulate so that when he wants to light it and make ‘these little videos for the people out there,’ – ‘that is what he does.’ These statements are completely untrue. Mr. Sims also told the audience that the Lipskys were using the presence of the gas to get their taxable home value reduced significantly, implying that the presence of the gas is somehow a positive situation for the Lipskys. Mr. Sims has acted as an agent of Range Resources, and his untrue, callous assertions that the Lipskys have manufactured their claim or that they have somehow benefited from the dangerous hazards to which Range Resources has subjected them are evidence of Range Resources’ grossly negligent conduct and indifference to the rights, safety, and welfare of the plaintiffs.”
The Lipskys seek actual damages of $4.5 million, $2 million for mental anguish, treble damages from the Silverado defendants for deceptive trade, and exemplary damages from Range Resources for gross negligence.
They are represented by Allen Stewart of Dallas.