Gas company takes blogger to court

Posted by Christine, May 23, 2012

This is a case with First Amendment implications. Blogger Sharon Wilson is being threatened with jail unless she turns over her emails. The case itself is alarming: seeking damages for harming the company’s reputation by posting video on YouTube. Bloomberg’s report here.

Texas blogger and activist Sharon Wilson has been subpoenaed in a Texas lawsuit  in a way that sets a very dangerous precedent for anyone opposing irresponsible drilling practices.
Range Resources is suing a landowner, Steve Lipsky and an environmental consultant he hired for $3 million for “conspiracy to harm its reputation.” In 2010, Lipsky hired Alisa Rich to test his slick, foamy tapwater; she notified the EPA of the methane, benzene and other contaminants that she found.
And then Lipsky sent Sharon Wilson a video of flames shooting from a garden hose attached to his wellhead, which she posted on her blog. It’s what she does: since 2003, she’s shot pictures and video and posted them, along with other evidence, on her blog and on YouTube to document pollution and harm caused by drilling for natural gas. She also calls 911, local health departments, elected officials, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the EPA, and alerts the newspapers to push for greater government oversight as she advocated for & helps the people who are the collateral damage of the growing “gas rush.” Her work has extended beyond the Barnett Shale to become national in scope.
Now Wilson needs OUR help.
Wilson has been a thorn in Range’s side for years, and Range has retaliated. In a subpoena, the company has demanded that Wilson turn over every email she has with the word “range” in it dating back to 2005 (five years before this case even began). “That would include emails about free range chickens,” she notes. “But it would also include emails from people who have been harmed by Range or those opposed to irresponsible gas development. I will give them the emails that pertain to this case—but I will not turn over emails from people who are innocent victims. I will go to jail first.”
The Rick Perry-appointed judge in the case threw out her request to be removed from a case she has nothing to do with–and demands that she turn over all emails by this coming Friday 5/25. His decision mimicked (almost verbatim)  Range’s Powerpoint evidence that was presented in court last week by a team of SEVEN lawyers.
Wilson shouldn’t have to go to jail–she’s done nothing wrong. But there’s also a broader issue here: the gas industry can’t get away with this level of intimidation or be allowed to add to their databases of  targeted “opponents” in this way.
Wilson needs:
2. Publicity! If you have any media connections, please send this email to them!
3. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT WILSON NEEDS IS A PROMINENT PRO-BONO LAWYER WITH A LICENSE TO PRACTICE IN TEXAS.
PLEASE HELP in any way you can, and PLEASE forward this on to anyone you know who might be able to help. With a high-profile lawyer and national attention, it will be much harder for Range and the heavily-influenced Texas judge in the case to push this through.
Thank you!