Environmental Law

Jury awards nearly $3M to family over fracking pollution


In what is believed to be the first jury verdict finding damages from fracking, a Texas family has been awarded $2.95 million from a natural gas company that drilled 20 wells within two miles of their 40-acre ranch, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Tests indicated the air around their home near Decatur, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth, contained benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and zylene, which are toxic chemicals in petroleum products. Robert and Lisa Parr alleged in the suit against the Plano, Texas-based Aruba Petroleum, Inc. that the toxins killed pets and livestock, as well as causing serious illnesses in family members. The family’s symptoms included headaches, nosebleeds, memory loss, rashes and open sores.

The case was watched closely by both sides in the ongoing battles over fracking. “It’s a game-changing verdict that may have repercussions throughout the United States,” said Gary Wocker, an environmental activist.

The jury found 5-1 for the Parrs, but also determined that the company did not act with malice. Aruba Petroleum said it would appeal the verdict, and that the company had followed safe and legal guidelines.

The Times says that while other landowners have reached settlements over fracking disputes, this may be the first time a jury has awarded damages.

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