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Thursday, April 24,2014

news briefs

OIL AND GAS COMPANY TO SUE BROOMFIELD OVER FRACKING BAN

It took longer than many believed it would, but Sovereign, an oil and gas company that has previously drilled within Broomfield, is preparing to sue over the fracking ban put in place in Broomfield by a citizens’ ballot initiative last November.

The ballot initiative, titled Question 300, narrowly passed, having to survive both recounts and lawsuits before going into effect.

At this time, Sovereign’s impending suit will be limited to its claim that it had a memorandum of agreement with Broomfield that would have allowed the company to drill 21 new wells at 10 locations. The company claims that the agreement pre-existed the fracking ban and therefore should still be honored. The agreement was approved by Broomfield in August 2013, three months before the fracking ban passed in November. Broomfield residents passed the fracking ban, at least in part, in response to the city’s approval of that very agreement because it would have allowed Sovereign to drill and frack near Prospect Ridge Academy, a K-12 school in the North Park area.

At the Broomfield City Council meeting on April 22, both the council and Sovereign agreed to allow a judge to make the determination on whether the company can proceed with the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of all 21 proposed wells despite the fracking ban. Regardless of the judge’s ultimate ruling, for which there is no timetable, it is likely that more litigation will follow. There are several additional issues that the oil and gas company intends to pursue at some point, including whether Broomfield’s ban is in conflict with state law.

$3 MILLION VERDICT IN FRACKING CASE COULD BE GAME CHANGER FOR THE INDUSTRY.

Bob and Lisa Parr had a beautiful home and life on their 40-acre spread in Texas. The problem was that their home was sitting on top of the oil and gas rich Barnett shale.

Over time, Aruba Petroleum drilled 22 wells within two miles of the couple’s home where they lived with their daughter Emma. Other oil and gas operators also drilled near the Parr’s home.

The couple was featured in the documentary film Gasland 2 wherein they claimed that their health had been compromised, their water contaminated and their property value destroyed. According to several published reports Lisa Parr’s doctor claims he had found drilling chemicals in her blood and lungs as early as 2010. At times the air pollution was so bad the family was forced to flee from their home for months at a time.

Aruba insists that its operations were in full compliance with all the oil and gas waste regulations of the federal government and Texas.

Despite that claim, on April 22, Earth Day, a jury awarded the Parrs $3 million in their lawsuit, filed in a Texas county court, against Aruba Petroleum. According to a release by the Parrs’ attorney David Mathews of Mathews & Associates, the award includes “$275,000 for the Parr’s property loss of market value and $2 million for past physical pain and suffering by Bob and Lisa Parr and their daughter, $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering, $400,000 for past mental anguish.”

This groundbreaking lawsuit is being called the first legal victory against fracking and its dangers and it could open the floodgates for victims of drilling and fracking across the nation. This could include not only victims of contamination whose air, water and health have been impacted, but also victims whose property values have declined due to nearby drilling activity — property declines that recent research shows range from 5 percent to 20 percent for any homes within a mile of a well.

Aruba Petroleum has said it will appeal. 

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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