An assertion commonly made by the oil and gas industry — and commonly repeated by journalists — is that there have been no proven instances of harm to health or contamination of drinking water from hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations.
One reason proof is hard to find is that drillers pay people to keep quiet. Now the unsealing of a once-confidential settlement in Pennsylvania gives a clear view of how the silencing works.
The 17-page, two-year-old settlement agreement includes a $750,000 payment to the Hallowich family, who "had been outspoken critics of fracking, saying the family became sick from the gas drilling activity surrounding their Washington County home," according to NPR.
The gag order on the Hallowich family that was part of the settlement also applied to their 7- and 10-year-old children for the rest of their lives.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter had fought in court to unseal the settlement agreement.
- "Court Reveals How Shale Drillers, Pittsburgh-Area Family Agreed,"  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 12, 2013, by Don Hopey.
- "Lifelong Gag Order Imposed on Two Kids in Fracking Case,"  StateImpact Pennsylvania (NPR), August 1, 2013, by Susan Phillips.
- Previous Story: SEJ WatchDogs of December 12, 2012  and March 27, 2013.