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Dallas Jury Awards $3 Million to Wise County Family In "First Fracking Trial"

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When the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality took air samples from near Bob and Lisa Parr's Wise County ranch on several occasions in 2010, their conclusions varied little. The levels of possibly harmful volatile organic compounds were too low to cause "adverse health effects"

Such chemicals "were either not detected or were detected below levels of short-term health and/or welfare concern."

The Parrs' claim, in other words, that nearby fracking operations were causing the chronic migraines, rashes, dizziness, nausea and nosebleeds suffered by them, their young daughter, and their pets (all laid out in Gasland 2) was baseless.

A six-person Dallas County jury came to the opposite conclusion. In what Parrs' attorneys have billed as the first fracking trial in the country (legal experts told the LA Times there have been settlements but no cases that made it to a jury), the family won a $2.95 million verdict against Plano-based Aruba Petroleum.

The Parrs had previously settled with other companies named in their suit. The TCEQ ultimately fined Aruba twice, in 2011 and 2012, for air quality violations in Wise County.

Aruba maintains that it's done nothing wrong.

"We contended the plaintiffs were neither harmed by the presence of our drilling operations nor was the value of their property diminished because of our natural gas development," the company said in a statement.

Attorneys for the company called the amount of damages "arbitrary."

"How do you determine which well caused what, if any, damages," lawyer Ben Barron told The Dallas Morning News, noting that the Parrs live within two miles of more than 100 fracking wells.

The Parrs are currently trying to sell their home, a custom-built affair on 40 acres near Decatur, but so far have had no takers.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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