A Pennsylvania state court judge recently dismissed a Butler County fracking lawsuit. In a unique twist, the landowning plaintiffs in this case brought suit against two environmental groups–the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Clean Air Council–and local residents. Plaintiffs in this case are a Butler County developer and various local landowners who have oil and gas royalty interests. They assert claims for tortious interference with contracts, tortious interference with contractual relations, and civil conspiracy.
In 2014, Defendants petitioned the local government to overturn an ordinance that allowed fracking and related activities in Middlesex Township. As a result of this 2014 lawsuit, gas companies have stopped drilling in parts of the township. Plaintiffs seek to recover over $500,000 from Defendants over the underlying 2014 lawsuit. Among other things, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants intentionally misstated the known facts and health issues in a scorched earth campaign against fracking, and purposely used inflammatory language to force gas companies to refrain from their planned activities.
On September 22, 2015, Judge Horan dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of specificity and for failure to associate various allegations with specific defendants. Although the ACLU is already claiming that this is “a victory for the First Amendment and for the right of all Americans to speak their minds on important issues,” Plaintiffs were given 20 days to amend their complaint. The case is Dewey Homes & Investment Properties LLC et al. v. Delaware Riverkeeper Network et al., case number 15-10393, in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas.