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Colorado Family Sues Oil And Gas Drilling Firms

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DENVER (AP) - A western Colorado family has filed a lawsuit saying that negligence by oil and gas drilling companies contaminated their drinking water and air and forced them from their home.

Beth and Bill Strudley and their sons, ages 11 and 13, moved in 2005 outside Silt but said they started living in Glenwood Springs this year to escape the effects of work by Antero Resources Corp. and subcontractors Frontier Drilling and Calfrac Well Services. The Strudleys still own the home outside Silt. Their lawsuit in Denver District Court accuses all three firms of negligence.

Denver-based Antero said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Calfrac had no immediate comment, and a phone message for Frontier Drilling wasn’t returned.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates oil and gas development, has said it has found no scientific data that the water quality in the family’s well was contaminated by drilling, but the Strudleys said they have conducted their own tests. They and their lawyers declined to disclose the results Thursday, saying only that they were “abnormal.”

The family said they started getting sick after drilling started within a mile of their home in August. They wouldn’t discuss details at a news conference Thursday, but Beth Strudley, 46, told The Post Independent of Glenwood Springs in January that they have suffered rashes and nosebleeds.

Bill Strudley, 50, said Thursday he still feels ill whenever he returns to the Silt-area home to retrieve belongings.

Residents in the Battlement Mesa community also have complained of odors that have caused nausea, dizziness, coughing and burning eyes that they say are because of Antero’s operations.

The Strudleys are represented in part by a law firm that has filed a suit alleging drilling by the Anschutz Exploration Corp. in New York contaminated the drinking water of nine families. Denver-based Anschutz Exploration has called the lawsuit “an act of financial extortion” by some lawyers trying to enrich themselves.

The Strudleys are seeking damages to cover health monitoring and medical costs.

“Gas drillers have got to be made to have safe drilling operations for the environment, for humans, for animal life,” said Marc Bern, one of their attorneys. “Individuals drilling in this area care about one thing: profits. Profits over safety.”

The family does not own the rights to minerals beneath their property. Beth Strudley said before they bought their home, she asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission whether the area could be drilled. She said she was told a company had done tests and found it would be economically difficult.

- By Catherine Tsai, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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