Gag orders are common in all sorts of court cases, but they aren’t usually applied to children and rarely last a lifetime. Some American lawyers are really pushing the envelope – by ordering a lifelong gag on two kids, aged 7 and 10, that prevents them from discussing fracking for good.
The kids ended up with the gag order after their parents reached a $750,000 settlement with Range Resources Corp, an oil and gas company that was accused of wrecking their 10-acre farm in Pennsylvania.
The company is a big player in Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom and it placed several industrial facilities right next to the Hallowich’s farm. These included four gas wells, gas compressor stations and a waste pond, according to the Guardian.
The family took the company to court, claiming that their water supply was contaminated as a result of Range Resources’ operations. Like most legal battles nowadays, the dispute ended in a settlement reached in 2011 and unsealed last week.
Under the settlement, the family had to sign a gag order – which is fairly common for a cash handout. But it was extended to include a couple of children. Unusual, even in America.
The father, Chris Hallowich, told the court that it might be difficult to ensure the children keep absolutely quiet on fracking, namely because they don’t know what fracking or a gag order is. Then there is the small matter that they are aged 7 and 10. The family’s lawyer said he had never seen a gag order imposed on children in his 30 years of practicing law.
However, the attorney representing Range Resources reaffirmed that the company sought the gag order.
“Our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it,” the attorney told the court.
Now that the order is public, the company is facing some rather bad press and is trying to distance itself from comments made by its illustrious legal team. We guess they could have done that before the story went public.