Children Banned from Discussing Fracking Settlement for Their Entire Lives

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The first rule of fracking is: don’t talk about fracking.

The second rule of fracking is: DON’T TALK ABOUT FRACKING… At least when it comes to fracking settlements.

All Chuck Palahniuk references aside – the author of Fight Club, in case that needs to be stated anymore these days – this breaking story proves once again that the controversial practice of fracking sounds less like a good idea the more it’s discussed. In fact two children from Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania have just been legally barred from discussing fracking for the rest of their lives.

The gag order stems from the Hallowich family’s $750,000 settlement with the driller Range Resources in August 2011. The Hallowiches had become severely ill from the air and water contaminated by the shale-gas drilling site nearby and quickly agreed to the extreme terms of the settlement to move away as soon as possible. But not only were parents Stephanie and Chris legally barred from discussing the case or fracking in general, so were their 7- and 10-year-old children — which lawyers call an unprecedented extension for a nondisclosure agreement.

The 7- and 10-year-old children of a Pennsylvania couple that reached a settlement following a lawsuit involving health issues brought on by fracking have been barred from discussing details of the case for the rest of their lives.Though a gag order is not unusual in itself when large corporations reach a settlement with plaintiffs in court, the August 2011 case of a family that went to court with Range Resources Corporation, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream, and Markwest Energy due to the environmental and health impact caused by gas fracking operations has raised eyebrows for its inclusion of the couple’s young children.The Pennsylvania family reached a $750,000 settlement with the gas companies, and have used the award to relocate. In exchange, however, Chris and Stephanie Hallowich agreed that no member of their family could comment on the case “in any fashion whatsoever.”

Details of the case only emerged recently when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette managed to get court transcripts released. The paper’s reporters were originally barred from attending the settlement hearing, and had to wait until a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a lower court had erred in blocking the unsealing of the records.