Thou Shalt Not Sue

thou-shalt-not-sueApproximately 220 nuisance lawsuits have been filed in West Virginia (WVA) over the past 3 years against such drilling/fracking companies such as Antero Resources, EQT and Hall Drilling.

WVA is considered a national energy hub, leading the nation in net interstate electricity exports and underground coal mine production, while experiencing a growing natural gas industry as a result of the Great Shale Gas Rush. Overall, it produces 15% of the nation’s fossil fuel energy. The state’s underground natural gas storage represents 6% of the nation’s total, and overall it has 5.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas reserves through 2008 estimates.

Beneath WVA is the Marcellus Shale and its vast natural gas resource. The natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale was considered to be unrecoverable until approximately 10 years ago. Technological improvements through a combination of chemicals, horizontal drilling and “fracking” changed all that.

Along with the natural gas hyped promise of “jobs” and money came numerous problems to residents, including water contamination, air pollution, noise, traffic, and more. Living the drill in WVA (and elsewhere) means sleepless nights from the noise and lights coming from a well pad, it means keeping windows closed – even in the summer months – to prevent breathing in emissions. It means putting up with thousands of trucks running 24/7 up and down rural roads and kicking up dust.

Residents have little recourse to stop or curtail the drilling except through the courts and this has led to the increase of filing Nuisance Lawsuits.

In a nuisance lawsuit, a plaintiff is basically saying to the defendant, “Your action is interfering with my enjoyment of my property; therefore, you must stop acting in that manner.”

The WVA Senate agrees it is a nuisance, but not to the WVA residents. Nuisance lawsuits are being viewed as a nuisance to the drilling corporations, factory farms, and other giant industries. The WVA Senate is going to fix that problem by prohibiting Nuisance lawsuits.

WVA Senators Ferns, Stollings, Kirkendoll, Blair, Carmichael, Mullins and Palumbo introduced  Senate Bill 508 (SB508) on Thursday, February 4, 2016.

(Emphasis added) The purpose of this bill is to establish the standards applicable to the common law claim for private nuisance. The bill lists elements and establishes requirements including the requirement that physical property damage or bodily injury exist before a person can seek damages for a private nuisance. The bill also prohibits private nuisance claims if the activity at issue is conducted pursuant to and in compliance with a permit, license or other approval by a state or federal agency or other entity. The bill also requires a plaintiff to have either an ownership interest or possessory interest in the property at issue to have standing to bring a private nuisance claim.

SB508 will strip way West Virginians right to enjoy their property.

Mining or Drilling operations disrupting your sleep?  You won’t be able to sue.

Is a factory farm runoff or odors making you sick?  You won’t be able to sue.

Noise from a strip club next door too loud?  You won’t be able to sue.

An industrial operation causing problems in your neighborhood?  You won’t be able to sue.

Barking dogs from a Kennel business?  If they have a municipal, state or federal permit – there won’t be anything you can do about it.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing bill mill, has written far-reaching Right to Farm Act as one of its over 800 “model bills” that it encourages state legislators to pass. The bill would bar any lawsuits by neighbors claiming nuisance from any activities that are typical in farming, including industrial agriculture.

sb508Although the ALEC “Right to Farm” bills pertain to industrial or factory farming, its purpose is to stop Nuisance lawsuits from being a nuisance to the industry.

Perhaps seeking to kill several pesky nuisance lawsuit issues in one blow, SB508 contains much broader language than just being “farm” specific.   As long as any business or activity has a municipal, state or federal agency issued permit a nuisance lawsuit cannot be filed.

SB508 has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

West Virginians who wish to preserve their rights to enjoy their property must to take action now and stop SB508!


©2015 by Dory Hippauf



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