On August 22, 2014, the Texas Supreme Court granted the Petition for Writ of Mandamus of a homeowner and agreed to hear an appeal of the decision of the Texas Court of Appeals in Fort Worth which failed to dismiss the defamation claims of an oil and gas company against him. The defamation claims are against homeowner Steve Lipsky, who filed suit and alleged that hydraulic fracturing by Range Resources Corporation contaminated his well.
Lipsky’s well began to malfunction in 2005, and a well service company found that natural gas was building up inside the well. Lipsky shut off the well, but he has turned it on to demonstrate that he can light the water from the well on fire. He has done this demonstration for journalists, as well as the EPA, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Range Resources. According to the EPA in 2011, Lipsky’s well was contaminated by Range Resources’ drilling near his property. The EPA found there were dangerous levels of gas escaping from the well.
However, the Texas Railroad Commission held its own hearings and cleared Range Resources from any liability. Lipsky and the EPA did not participate in the Texas Railroad Commission hearings, citing inadequate notice.
Lipsky sued Range Resources after the EPA named the company as the responsible party for the contamination to the well. Range Resources counter-sued Lipsky for defamation, seeking $3 million in damages. Range Resources also sued the EPA.
In October 2013, a Texas Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that Range Resources could go forward with its defamation suit, which alleges that Lipsky misled the public about being able to set his water on fire. Now, the Texas Supreme Court has granted Mr. Lipsky’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
The Texas Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case (No. 13-0918) on December 4, 2014.
For further updates, stay tuned to this blog, or contact Toni Ellington at 504-599-8500.