Complain About Fracking Pollution, Get Sued by Fracking Company
Let's see if I've got this straight now. If you're able to set your well water on fire because of a nearby fracking operation, the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does NOT include the right to show pictures of your burning water on YouTube. On the other hand, “Free Speech” does allow a corporation to spend billions of dollars to bribe Congress or purchase an election, even though no actual “speech” was involved.
Texas landowner Steve Lipsky has shown photos and a video of his flaming well water, courtesy of the fracking pollution caused by Range Resources. The whole thing started in 2010 when Lipsky discovered he could ignite the water in his well and in the streams that run through his property. He showed this on a YouTube video, and he was one of the people interviewed in Gasland Part II. At first, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Range Resources to reimburse Lipsky for the cost of fresh drinking water.
But later, the EPA withdrew its order against Range Resources — no reason given. Next, the Texas Railroad Commission — which oversees fracking in Texas — said there wasn't enough evidence linking Range Resources to Steve Lipsky's flaming water.
And this paved the way for Range Resources to sue Steve Lipsky for defaming the company's reputation for “environmental stewardship.” Steve Lipsky's attorney said:
“Range has a right to protect its reputation, but the speech they’re complaining about is protected speech. If we’re going to allow companies to sue people for defamation every time they don’t like what’s being said, then that basically allows corporations to silence public participation. Defending yourself against a big company is a daunting task for most people. Range is showing it’s willing to try to ruin someone with litigation.”
As you probably guessed, Range Resources has not responded to reporters' requests for comment.