Two Pennsylvania children will never be allowed to discuss hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for their rest of their lives, according to a settlement reached between their parents and a large oil and gas company.
Stephanie Hallowich's 10-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl have been given a gag order, after a lawsuit by the family claimed that their children's health was being put at risk by the adjacent gas drills and waste water pond next to their property in rural Pennsylvania. The settlement, which paid the Hallowich's $750,000 for their relocation as well as to cover any lingering health effects, had the unusual feature of a gag-order on minors. After other, similar settlements, gag-orders have only been given to adults involved.
"My concern is that they're minors. I'm not quite sure I fully understand," said their mother. "We know we're signing for silence for ever but how is this taking away our children's rights being minors now? I mean my daughter is turning seven today, my son is 10." Hallowich stressed in the 2011 court case the need to relocate her family away from the drilling, no matter what would be included in the settlement.
But the father of the two children remains concerned about further legal repercussions for his family, especially given that they've relocated to a nearby town, which is still in the center of the Pennsylvania fracking boom.
"They're going to be among other children that are children of people within this industry and they're going to be around it every day of their life, that if they in turn say one of the illegal words when they're outside of our guardianship we're going to have difficulty controlling that," Chris Hallowich said. "We can tell them, they can not say this, they can not say that, but if on the playground....."
The attorney for the the company has reaffirmed need for the gag order on the children. "I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family,' he said. "We would certainly enforce it."