Texas Lawsuit Blames Natural Gas Driller for Flaming Well Water

A couple in Texas is suing natural gas driller Range Resources over their flammable well water. Steven and Shyla Lipsky, who spent years and millions of dollars building their dream home in Parker County, claim nearby natural gas wells where Range conducted hydraulic fracturing are responsible for their tainted water.

In addition to Range Resources, the Lipsky’s lawsuit also names Silverado on the Brazos Development Company #1 LTD as a defendant. They claim the Weatherford-based company told them there would no natural gas drilling near or in their development when they first moved there in 2001. According to the lawsuit, the Lipsky’s learned from the Texas Railroad Commission that Range Resources had started drilling for gas in August 2009 in their development, in direct violation of its covenants.

After moving to the development, the Lipsky’s began purchasing multiple lots. In 2004, they began building their $4.5 million “dream home,” moving into the home in 2009. The Lipskys began drilling the water well that is at the center of the lawsuit in 2005, and claim that for five years, it contained no methane. In 2010, they learned that the well was contaminated with benzene, toluene and ethane, as well as a large amount of methane gas that made the water flammable. Because their water is unusable, the Lipskys now have water shipped in at a significant cost.

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.

We’ve reported previously on the problems in Parker County that are allegedly tied to Range Resources’ natural gas drilling. Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that that the gas contaminating the water wells of several Parker County property owners was identical to gas found a mile below where Range was fracking. The agency was careful to note that it was not specifically blaming fracking for the contamination, only that gas had somehow made its way to the water wells. This could have been the result of problems with the gas wells’ casing, or a cement job that failed, the agency said. The EPA also surmised that the drilling may have hit a geological fault or an old gas well.

At the time, the EPA ordered the gas wells shut down to prevent two houses from exploding, but Range has continued to operate the wells, and is fighting the EPA in federal court. Meanwhile, the Texas Railroad Commission has taken the side of the driller, and absolved Range of any wrongdoing after tests it conducted determined the gas in the water wells had a different geological fingerprint compared to gas in the Range wells. For its part, the EPA is standing by its own findings, stating that the Commission’s finding “is not supported by EPA’s independent, scientific investigation.”

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