A startling revelation came from yesterday’s court hearing in the tiny village of Montrose, PA. Some of the landowners from Dimock, PA who have traveled around the country claiming their water had been contaminated by Cabot Oil & Gas (remember the fraud “documentary” called Gasland?) were actually paid up to $5,000 *per month* by green groups to spread their lies.
Cabot Oil & Gas is tired of being sued, and slandered, by people like Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his ambulance-chasing lawyers. In August 2017 Cabot sued back–for $5 million (see Cabot O&G Countersues Dimock Anti, Lawyers). Kemble lives in Dimock Township, in Susquehanna County, PA.
Kemble and other families in the Dimock area claimed Cabot’s drilling in the area (~12 years ago) caused problems with their water wells–a claim strongly refuted by Cabot. Cabot settled with most of the landowners, including Kemble.
But a couple of Kemble’s neighbors did not settle. They sued and, in a sham trial, won a jury award of $4.2 million (see Dimock Jury Levies $4.25M Judgement Against Cabot in Dimock Case). A federal court later threw out the verdict and the $4.2 million judgement (see Fed Court Overturns $4.2M Dimock Judgement Against Cabot O&G). The judge said the Dimock lawsuit would have be re-tried, a years-long process now under way.
Our theory is that news of a potential new lawsuit and the previous OJ-like jury’s award of $4.2 million must have got old Ray a thinkin’…What if? So in April 2017 Ray and lawyers from two law firms launched yet another frivolous lawsuit against Cabot, litigation over something previously settled. It was a naked attempt to shake down Cabot for money in a quick settlement. But Cabot called them on it, filing a counter-lawsuit seeking $5 million–against Kemble, and against lawyers Charles Speer from the Speer Law Firm, and Edward Ciarimboli and Clancy Boylan from Fellerman & Ciarimboli (see Cabot O&G Asks Judge to Make Dimock Anti Pay for Extortion, Slander).
Since that time Ray’s sleazy lawyers have tried to wiggle out of their losing legal battle–trying their darnedest to dump old Ray. We won’t recount all the ins and outs (see an update on the shifty lawyers trying to exit the lawsuit from our buddy Tom Shepstone).
Old Ray started all this, got himself counter-sued, and then he refused to show up for depositions, twice. So Cabot asked the judge to make him show up, and that somehow got twisted by mainstream media propagandists as “Cabot is trying to throw an old man into jail.” Here’s how the Dissociated Press reported it last week, prior to a court hearing scheduled for yesterday:
A gas driller is escalating its campaign against a Pennsylvania homeowner who’s long accused the company of polluting his water, demanding that he be thrown in jail over his failure to submit to questioning as part of the company’s $5 million lawsuit against him.
Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. sued Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his former lawyers in 2017, claiming they tried to extort the company through a frivolous federal lawsuit that recycled already-settled claims of environmental contamination. Cabot also claims Kemble violated a 2012 settlement agreement by repeatedly “spouting lies” about the company in public.
In court papers filed this month, Cabot said Kemble had skipped two depositions in the case, and asked a judge to hold him in contempt and put him behind bars until he meets with the company’s lawyers. Kemble, who has said he has cancer, said he was unable to go the depositions because of his poor health. A hearing is scheduled for Monday.
Kemble, who has traveled the country speaking about his experiences with the gas industry, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. But an environmental group that has worked with him for years blasted Cabot’s aggressive posture.
“To try to put a man like Ray Kemble in jail speaks volumes about the decency of this industry,” said Scott Edwards, an environmental lawyer at Food & Water Watch. “It’s an outrage.”
Cabot contends Kemble and two of his allies — whom the company is also seeking to depose — have “made a mockery” of the court and “conspired to derail this litigation and conceal evidence.” It called Kemble a “paid mouthpiece and jug carrier for national anti-industry activist groups.”
The vitriol is nothing new in Dimock, a tiny crossroads in the heart of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale rock formation in northeastern Pennsylvania. It became a major battleground in the national fight over shale gas drilling and fracking after Kemble and more than a dozen other residents sued Cabot nearly a decade ago, contending the company had polluted their water supplies. Cabot denied the claims but settled the suit.
Separately, Pennsylvania environmental regulators held Cabot responsible for fouling residential water wells and prohibited it from drilling in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock, a ban that remains in place despite Cabot’s attempt to lift it.
Kemble alleges Cabot wrecked his finances, health and quality of life. He’s trying to get Cabot’s suit tossed.
“The water contamination here, the diesel fumes, the 24×7 truck traffic, noise and light, and now this harassment, all at the hands of Cabot have literally ruined my life,” he wrote last September in a letter he tried delivering to the judge overseeing his case.
Federal government scientists went to Dimock in 2017 to test the water for methane and a range of chemicals but are still analyzing the results. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry intends to release a public report on the findings. (1)
Ray finally showed up in court yesterday (under threat of being jailed), and promised to sit for a deposition within a month, which was spun by the AP as Cabot “backing off” their “threat” to have Kemble jailed.
A gas driller backed off its demand Monday to have a Pennsylvania homeowner thrown in jail after he agreed to talk to the company’s lawyers next month.
Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. contends Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his former lawyers tried to extort the company through a frivolous federal lawsuit. Cabot also claims Kemble violated a 2012 settlement agreement by speaking ill about the company. Cabot is suing the law firm and Kemble for $5 million.
The company had sought jail time for Kemble after he didn’t show up for a deposition. Kemble, who appeared in court Monday using a walker and stood for the duration of the hearing, said he is unable to sit for long periods after cancer surgery. Cabot agreed to give Kemble time to recover, and the deposition was rescheduled for March.
Kemble and others have long accused Cabot of polluting their water supplies, a claim that formed the basis of the Emmy-winning 2010 documentary “Gasland.” State regulators held Cabot responsible for polluting residential water wells and banned it from drilling in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock, a rural community 150 miles north of Philadelphia.
Cabot, which has long denied responsibility, has been waging a fierce PR and legal campaign against Kemble and other fracking opponents who the company says are funded by deep-pocketed environmental groups to spread falsehoods about Cabot. The company, which is publicly traded, said it sees the litigation against Kemble and his former lawyers as a way to defend itself from scurrilous attacks.
“This is not Cabot vs. three landowners. This is Cabot vs. the money that’s behind this. These are paid activists, paid actors on behalf of Food & Water Watch and the like,” Cabot spokesman George Stark said outside court Monday. “Some will say that, you know, again Cabot is going after a local voice. And that’s nothing further from the truth. We are actively going after those that are funding. These billionaire groups are funding these mouthpieces.”
Kemble said it’s Cabot that’s not telling the truth. He said the payments from groups like Water Defense Inc. and Riverkeeper Inc. helped fund bulk water deliveries for Kemble and other affected Dimock residents after Cabot cut them off several years ago. Cabot and other gas companies routinely deliver water to residents who say their wells were ruined by drilling operations.
“Cabot’s entire case against Ray Kemble is a weak attempt to distract people from the harm they’ve caused in Dimock and elsewhere,” said Scott Edwards, a lawyer for Food & Water Watch.
Kemble, who has traveled the country speaking about his experience with the gas industry, asserts Cabot polluted his water supply anew after he and other Dimock homeowners entered into a confidential 2012 settlement of their earlier contamination claims against the company.
“You don’t think I’m going to say something?” he said Monday.
State inspectors have issued about 900 citations to Cabot since the drilling boom began in Pennsylvania more than a decade ago, more than 500 of them over environmental health and safety issues and the rest for paperwork errors. Cabot, one of the most prolific producers in the nation’s No. 2 gas-drilling state, has about 770 active shale gas wells in Pennsylvania.
Stark said the company learned from its early mistakes and “because of that learning, hands down, we are the best operator.” (2)
Mainstream media continues its propaganda-fest. They don’t tell you the *real* news that came out of yesterday’s court hearing: that Ray himself, and other fractivists from Dimock, were being paid by radical Big Green groups including FrackAction, Food & Water Watch and Catskill Mountainkeeper up to $5,000 per month to travel around and spread their lies about Cabot. That’s the bombshell. And yet you won’t read it in mainstream news.
Again, Tom Shepstone has the news:
Dimock activists who have been parading around the country telling tales of horror about fracking were being apparently being paid all along to shill.
We always knew it had to be the case. Craig Stevens and Ray Kemble have been traveling the U.S. for years putting on a road show so ludicrous as to make the original Cardiff Giant story seem credible by comparison. They claimed Ray Kemble’s water was polluted by Cabot. They put out videos looking aghast at water reports and spinning the results to suggest the water was undrinkable.
They pulled every trick in the book and offered zero credibility except with those who wanted desperately to believe fracking was evil. They were sponsored guests at one Food & Water Watch fiasco after another where they painted themselves as innocent victims only desirous of warning others. And, now we learn they were shills for hire, or at least appear to be.
This was the big news that came out of the Pig to Rigs lawsuit today in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas as Judge Jason Legg heard four matters. The first and most important was a motion by Kemble to quash the subpoena issued to him to appear for a deposition by Cabot. Kemble was there and spoke for himself, although he continued to be represented by Raiders during the proceedings.
Cabot Attorney Amy Barrette opened the discussion with an incredibly eye-opening statement, noting that Cabot had depositioned Craig Stevens. Stevens and Bill Huston had both been given power of attorney by Kemble and both were subpoenaed for depositions. Stevens apparently acceded to his and Barrette summarized some key facts learned, including that Stevens and Kemble were, during all those appearances around the country, being paid by FrackAction, Food & Water Watch and Catskill Mountainkeeper, et al to the tune of up to $5,000 per month. Perhaps that accounts for the $42,000 Food & Water Watch oddly gave the Mountainkeeper in 2016.
We’ll undoubtedly learn more as things proceed with the case, but these revelations alone are startling. We never pretend, here at NaturalGasNOW, to be anything other than an advocate for the industry, landowners and the rural citizenry at large. I have always acknowledged having industry clients, Kemble and Stevens, by contrast, have always portrayed themselves as nothing more than innocent victims and spokespersons for other victims, current and future. Stevens, in particular, has carried this banner, together with a jug or two of water supposedly dirtied by fracking.
Now, we’re getting closer to the truth. Some Dimock activists were apparently being paid along the way. There’s nothing wrong about that when it’s disclosed, of course, but how many of those attendees at ginned up protests, where they appeared to speak, knew they were being paid? Darned few, I expect. And, how New York State legislators knew, when Craig Stevens was motor-mouthing a speech to them about what was happening in Pennsylvania, that he was representing someone other than himself? How many news reporters thought, when they interviewed the colorful Stevens and Kemble, that they were perhaps being paid to talk? Just amazing.
There was still more to the proceedings today, though. Kemble, though he was there, stood through the hearing on his motion and his attorney’s motion to withdraw from the case. Barrette brought out that Kemble had previously backed out of his deposition on the excuse of health at the same time he had flown to California for a Food & Water Watch event. She pointed out Kemble had, in fact, had multiple opportunities to being be deposed and avoid sanctions, Following discussions, it was agreed the parties would attempt to do the deposition sometime in mid-March, pending medical evaluation, with a resumption of the hearing on March 29th, giving Kemble yet another chance to avoid sanctions.
Following this agreement, the court took up the matter of Attorney Rich Raiders’ motion to be allowed to withdraw from representing Kemble. Raiders reiterated what was in his motion and discussed thoroughly here. He also offered exhibits to make his case and called out Bill Huston for playing attorney and interfering with the case to Kemble’s detriment. Kemble than got up and publicly fired Raiders. Barrette objected noting how Kemble’s lack of attorney could have dire consequences for him and the case. She suggested a conditional withdrawal; that is to say Raiders should be able to withdraw only after Kemble secured a new attorney, Kemble said he’d have one by March 29th and, therefore, that was how the matter was left.
Julie Ann Skinner, who had worked with Pigs to Rigs lawyer Charlie Speer appeared next. She gave various poor excuses for not agreeing to a deposition, but volunteered to give one in the next 60 days. (3)
(1) Associated Press (Jan 31, 2019) – Gas driller seeking to have man thrown in jail for contempt
(2) AP/Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin (Feb 4, 2019) – Gas driller Cabot backs off demand to have Susquehanna County man thrown in jail
(3) Natural Gas Now/Tom Shepstone (Feb 4, 2019) – Now We Know, Dimock Activists May Have Been Shills for Hire, Not Victims
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