A Texas family was awarded nearly $3 million in a lawsuit against Aruba Petroleum, alleging that the Plano company's hydraulic fracturing activity made them sick and forced them to leave their property.
Bob and Lisa Parr of Wise County, Texas, alleged that ground water contamination, airborne pollution and other wastes associated with fracking for natural gas and other drilling near their 40-acre ranch caused migraines, rashes, dizziness, nose bleeds and other symptoms in their family, pets and livestock. The issues began in 2009.
The Parrs filed the lawsuit in 2011 and a jury sided with the family this week.
"Many studies have shown the adverse health effects on those who live or work near these sites, but those findings haven't really changed anything," the family's attorney David Matthews said in a statement. "This verdict is a game-changer. It should make fracking operators stand up and take notice."
Attorneys for the drilling company pointed out that there are more than 100 wells within two miles of the Parr ranch.
“How do you determine which well caused what, if any, damages?" said Ben Barron, representing Aruba, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Encana Oil & Gas of Calgary was named in the initial lawsuit but settled with the family outside of court, the newspaper reported.
Watch KTVT-TV's report about Wednesday's decision:
The Morning News also noted that Aruba was fined by the state's environmental quality commission in 2011 and 2012 for air quality violations in the same county as the Parr ranch.
"I am just overwhelmed," Lisa Parr told the Los Angeles Times. "I feel like I am just this little bitty girl, this little family who just beat the biggest, most powerful industry in the world."
The company said it would appeal the decision. The family had sought about $9 million in damages.
The win could embolden others who claim to have experienced health issues as a result of fracking to file their own lawsuits as well.
Though a 2013 study found that fracking at a western Pennsylvania drilling site didn't contaminate drinking water, it didn't necessarily prove that such drilling couldn't lead to pollution because geology and company practices could vary.
The Environmental Protection Agency is completing a draft report for peer review and comment this year on a study about fracking's potential impact on drinking water.
Another study recently blasted the federal government for underestimating the emissions that result from fracking. The study estimated that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That's more than the 32 million tons estimated by the EPA or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission.
Yet another study investigating tremors in Ohio found that the high-pressure injection of sand and water in fracking had a "probable" link to increased pressure that could have caused the shakes.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.