Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Property Value Plummeted Because Of Nearby Fracking! Can I Sue?

Here in West Virginia, homeowners are lookiung at land being cleared for fracking sites next to their homes that just happen to be for sale. With months of noisy, unsightly work just getting started, how will they ever sell their home? Potential buyers will have heard about the large number of trucks that will soon be clogging the quaint county lanes and they will have heard about people who claim fracking destroys water wells for miles around the fracking sites. Who will buy a home next to a potential health hazard when the home's main selling point, the glorious view of the hills of West Virginia, no longer exists?

The land pictured below is in Doddridge County WV. The beautiful country home located next to this site once was surrounded by woods filled with wildlife. Like many West Virginians, the family moved here to get away from the noise and pollution of a major city in another state. They took their savings and bought a house in the country, where they could enjoy fresh, clean air and water and sit outside at night, enjoying the stars and sounds of crickets. Today, the home is surrounded by truck traffic, blasting and heavy equipment 24/7.

Photo credit
Can you sue for compensation for a diminution in property value if no drilling is being done on your land?
In most lawsuits filed in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, plaintiffs claimed that the operation of a gas well drilled near their property caused contamination of their drinking water and harmed their health. Details of the lawsuits are hard to come by because plaintiffs are forced into a  non-disclosure agreement (a gag order) as a condition of the settlement so the public is not aware of the details of the lawsuit. Even disclosure is not a matter of public record. There is no indication that anyone has filed for loss of property value or loss of the enjoyment of their property alone.

Since the legal system’s high litigation costs, lack of legal precedents from  non-disclosure agreements and the difficulty of proving the chemicals used in fracking (which drilling companies do not disclose) are responsible for water contamination dissuade lawsuits. Many families are finding it hard to locate an oil and gas lawyer willing to take their case on a contingency fee basis.