Range Resources Corp. has gone on the offensive in its battle with a North Texas landowner and a controversial environmental consultant widely believed to have an anti-gas industry agenda. In its response to a lawsuit over alleged water well contamination, the company said it wants to be compensated for millions of dollars in damages caused by false allegations.
In response to a lawsuit filed by landowners Steven and Shyla Lipsky (see Shale Daily, June 27), Range told the 43rd District Court in Parker County, TX, that the Lipskys and environmental consultant Alisa Rich of Wolf Eagle Environmental conspired to incriminate the company for the occurrence of natural gas in in the couple's well water. The company has maintained -- and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) has found (see Shale Daily, March 23) -- that the gas in the Lipskys' well came from the Strawn Formation and not the deeper Barnett Shale targeted by Range's gas well.
"This determination by the state agency with the most experience and expertise in the oil and gas industry should have ended the accusations against Range, but plaintiffs continue to close their eyes to the facts in their effort to blame Range for something for which it clearly is not responsible," the company said in its answer and counterclaim to the Lipsky lawsuit.
In the 46-page document the company alleges that Rich conspired with the Lipskys' to do an end-run around the RRC, which already was investigating the alleged well contamination, to gain an audience with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which Rich believed would be more sympathetic to their cause.
"Rich's actions, with which the Lipskys agreed, approved, and/or acquiesced, resulted in losses to Range, and therefore its shareholders, in an amount in excess of $3 million...in expenditures and other harm to its business reputation."
The company said instances of flaming well water purported to be documented by Steven Lipsky actually involved the ignition of natural gas at the end of a garden hose that was connected to a well vent specifically intended to release naturally occurring gas from the Lipsky water well.
Further, Range asserts that the Lipskys have enjoyed a break in ad valorem taxes on their multi-million-dollar property of about $44,000 per year due to the property's devaluation based on the couple's well water contamination claims.
In March the RRC cleared Range of fouling water wells in the area of its Barnett Shale drilling activities. However, the company is still fighting an order by the EPA in the matter (see Shale Daily, June 23). Range was recently successful in 236th District Court in Tarrant County, TX, in having Rich excluded as an expert witness in the case.