North Texas blogger and activist Sharon Wilson spent today compiling hundreds of her private emails. From her perspective, it’s another chapter in a hard-nosed fracking company’s psy-ops effort against its critics.
She has until tomorrow to respond to a sweeping subpoena for her communications as part of a high-profile lawsuit between fracking company Range Resources and Steven and Shyla Lipsky, a North Texas couple who accuse Range of polluting their groundwater.
Wilson’s not a party to the suit but she got pulled in after the judge in the case, Trey Loftin, handed down a sweeping subpoena for Wilson’s communications with the media, other activists, the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, and especially the Lipskys. Wilson already believed she was the victim of a witch-hunt. And then she read the news today, hoo-boy.
Today, Bloomberg reported that Judge Loftin is not exactly a model of impartiality in this case.
A Texas state judge is promoting his recent decisions favoring a gas driller in its dispute with a local landowner as part of his election campaign, a move some legal scholars say may violate state judicial ethics rules.
With aspects of the case still pending in his courtroom, Judge Trey Loftin sent fliers to voters saying he forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back down.
Loftin, who is campaigning to keep his state judgeship in a county west of Dallas, also sent out materials with the image of talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who credited the judge’s ruling in favor of driller Range Resources Corp. (RRC), based in Fort Worth, Texas, for getting the EPA to reverse course.
Loftin, who is running to retain the post to which he was appointed on the 43rd district court in Parker County, has ruled in favor of Range three times in a legal dispute with landowner Steven Lipsky and consultant Alisa Rich. Lipsky sued Range, accusing it of contaminating his well water. Range, in a countersuit, alleged that Rich and Lipsky conspired to defame the company by getting the Environmental Protection Agency to intervene in the case, which prompted media coverage.
While one decision in the case is under appeal, parts of the case continue to be argued in Loftin’s courtroom. Last week, Loftin ruled that blogger Sharon Wilson must turn over e-mails Range demanded.
“The EPA, using falsified evidence provided by a liberal activist environmental consultant, accused and fined a local gas driller of contaminating wells,” according to a campaign flier for Loftin’s campaign. President Barack “Obama’s EPA backed down only after Judge Trey Loftin ruled that the evidence was ‘deceptive.’”
For those who believe Range is using the courts to facilitate a corporate psy-ops campaign, this revelation certainly isn’t going to assuage fears. Wilson ought to know. She’s the woman who exposed Range’s employment of ex-military psy-ops specialists to combat community opposition to fracking.
Now, she’s been roped into the defamation lawsuit Range filed against Lipsky and Rich.
Range Resources, it seems, thinks Wilson conspired with Lipsky, the landowner who blamed Range’s fracking for well-water contamination, to defame the company. But Wilson says her direct involvement with Lipsky was extremely limited.
“I didn’t conspire with anybody on this Range case,” said Wilson. “I didn’t even know about it until it came out in the news.”
In responding to the discovery request for her emails, Wilson says she’s found a handful of emails between her and Lipsky. Her initial contact involved Lipsky emailing her a copy of the now-infamous video of him setting his water on fire. She subsequently posted the video on her popular blog, BlueDaze. After that, she said Lipsky emailed her a few times about his court hearings.
But the Range subpoena includes “communications” dating back to 2005 with all sorts of government agencies, the media, environmental activists and others. She says she’s come up with a stack of emails about a inch-thick. In fact, yours truly makes an appearance in a scandalous email in which I ask Wilson to send me a copy of a Dallas Morning News article she mentions on her blog. Guilty!
“I’m being harassed,” said Wilson. “This has cost me a tremendous amount of stress and expense. … I feel like I’m not able to have any private conversations anymore. They are out of control and somebody needs to rein them in.”