Strudley lawsuit against Antero dismissed
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit against the Antero Resources drilling company, which claimed that the company’s activities on Silt Mesa ruined a family’s health and drove them out of their home.
Denver District Court Judge Ann Frick ruled on May 9 that attorneys representing the family of Bill and Beth Strudley, formerly of Silt Mesa, failed to show enough of a link between Antero’s drilling and fracking activities and the Strudleys’ health problems to justify continued court action.
“Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed,” said Beth Strudley on Friday.
The Strudleys’ lead attorney, Corey Zurbuch of the Frascona, Joiner, Goodman and Greenstein law firm of Boulder, said of the ruling, “We weren’t expecting it. We provided a tremendous amount of evidence to the court.”
He said no decision had been made yet concerning an appeal. “We’re weighing our options,” he added.
Beth Strudley, however, said “Our lawyers are really confident about the appeal.”
“We’re pleased,” said Al Schopp, a spokesman for Antero. “It worked the way it should have worked. They have to come with damages, not just allegations. We feel vindicated a little bit.”
A written statement from the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA) said the organization “applauded Wednesday’s court decision.”
David Ludlam, WSCOGA’s executive director, said in the statement, “The exoneration of Antero Resources is a positive development for Antero but an even larger symbolic victory for the natural gas industry of western Colorado.”
The decision, he said, is a “high profile name-clearing event [which] shows that science, communication and thoughtful dialogue are more effective methods for dealing with industry challenges than baseless lawsuits and or premature accusations from regulators.”
The Strudleys sued Antero in 2011, claiming that drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities in their neighborhood ruined their health and that of their two teenage sons.
Fumes and fluids from nearby exploratory wells, they claimed, contaminated their domestic water well and the air around their home with toxic chemicals, causing burning eyes and throats, rashes, nosebleeds, headaches and other symptoms.
Judge Frick conceded that there was “evidence of certain gases and compounds in both the air and water of [the Strudleys’] home.”
But that evidence does not show “a causal connection … between plaintiffs’ injuries and plaintiffs’ exposure to defendant’s drilling activities,” the judge concluded.
The judge’s ruling follows her order of November 2011 requiring the Strudleys’ attorneys to come up with convincing evidence of a link between exposure to the drilling activities and the Strudley family’s illnesses.
As part of her ruling, the judge stated that she “relied on the fact that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) had conducted an investigation of the plaintiffs’ well water and had concluded that the water supply was not affected by oil and gas operations in the vicinity.”
Beth Strudley, speaking by telephone on Friday, said tests ordered by the attorneys and the family’s insurance carrier “totally debunked the COGCC test results. We know our family was injured.”
She predicted that the court case will continue, and said she is grateful to be away from the drilling activities.
“I’m just really glad I got my family out of that house, out of that atmosphere,” she said.
She repeated assertions that when they were living in Silt Mesa and would go on vacations, their symptoms would fade away the longer they were gone.
“We definitely made the right decision,” she said.
Many of the acute symptoms suffered by the family have disappeared, she said, but chronic problems remain.
“Our immune systems have been severely compromised, in my opinion,” she said.
She said her sons have been ill repeatedly, and have missed a lot of school, which she said never happened prior to their living on Silt Mesa.
“We didn’t even have a family doctor before then, we were eating organic foods and living a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
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