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Couple collect $750K settlement in fracking case with no medical evidence

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:37 p.m.

A Washington County couple who claimed gas drilling ruined their property and sickened their family admitted no medical evidence existed to show that drilling harmed them before collecting a $750,000 settlement.

Stephanie and Chris Hallowich sued three companies claiming natural gas drilling and other activity on a neighboring property made their home in Hickory virtually unsalable.

Documents released on Wednesday revealed the Hallowiches stated their children “are healthy and have no symptoms that may allegedly be related” to the drilling.

The Hallowiches could not be reached for comment.

The family previously acknowledged it was receiving royalty payments from hydraulic fracturing on the property. Those rights were not relinquished in the settlement, transfer tax records show.

A spokesman for Range Resources, one of the defendants, said the company settled to end the legal ordeal despite no substantiation of the health claims.

“We've long maintained there was never any environmental or safety impact on the family,” Matt Pitzarella said. “The public can now very clearly see this is an industry that is being faithfully and responsibly developed without adverse impacts on health, safety or the environment.”

The Hallowiches received $594,820 and their lawyers $150,000, plus $5,179 for costs. The other companies in the case were Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Mid-Stream and Mark West Energy Partners.

The sides settled the case in July 2011, but the companies asked that the records be sealed and a judge agreed. Media organizations challenged the decision.

Trib Total Media staff writer Jason Cato and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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