Fort Worth-based Range Resources is like most gas drillers in the Barnett Shale. They brag a lot about being environmentally friendly and eager to work with communities to ensure “health, education, safety, and other civic improvements,” as Range’s website says. And, like most gas drilling companies, they have teams of lawyers that foam like pit bulls when anybody tries to interfere with a company’s attempt to exploit mineral reserves for big money, regardless of the effects on said health, education, or safety of residents. Get in their way, you might get bit.
Take Sharon Wilson, for example. She blogs about gas drillers on her Bluedaze site, including writing about homeowners whose water wells went bad after Range began drilling for natural gas nearby. A homeowner sued Range for alleged damages. Industry lapdogs (a.k.a. state regulators) quickly absolved Range of any responsibility. The Environmental Protection Agency, however, said that Range’s drilling activities contributed to the soured water wells in 2010.
Now Range is counter-suing a homeowner. The company issued a subpoena for Wilson’s deposition and asked that she bring any e-mail or correspondence related to the case. Range attorney David Poole explained why in a March 5 letter to environmental activist Calvin Tillman, saying Wilson was “the recipient of and responded to an e-mail from a high-level EPA official” regarding the matter, and “we believe she has had communications with the homeowner that are relevant to the issues in the lawsuit.”
Sounds funny to hear such demands for openness coming from an industry that fought like tigers to avoid revealing the contents of the toxic cocktails that it regularly injects into the earth — the same industry that relies on lopsided, industry-friendly laws to protect them as they trample over people’s rights and the environment.
Wilson, when contacted by Static, didn’t want to discuss the situation publicly because she doesn’t have an attorney. She said the deposition is scheduled for March 14. Local activists see Range’s actions as a power play to silence opponents. “This is not the time to be timid. We need to rally behind [Wilson] like an army,” Fort Worth resident and drilling activist Gary Hogan said.
Tillman characterized the actions by Range attorney Poole as “unethical” and “immoral” and designed to intimidate critics. The deposition is a “witch hunt” that violates First Amendment rights, he said. He’s encouraging people to let Poole know how you feel by calling 817- 870-2601 or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Poole did not return a phone call from the Weekly.