Company sues over 'defamatory' billboards

Lawsuit: injection-well operator sues over billboards it calls defamatory

A Texas company that operates injection wells is suing a man in rural Ohio who has posted billboards with Biblical warnings against the disposal facilities.

The billboards make reference to the book of Revelation, which warns of waters "made bitter" and killing "many men".

The source of the "contaminated" water, according to Michael Boals who reportedly paid more than $1000 for the billboards, are wastewater injection wells that are the product of increased shale exploration.

"Injection wells... pump POISONED WATERS under the feet of America's Citizens," the billboards shout. "DEATH may come."

Injection-well operator Buckeye Brine said the billboards contain false and defamatory attacks against its two wells in Coshocton in eastern Ohio, according to a lawsuit filed in July.

In its complaint, the company and landowner Rodney Adams say the wells are safe, legal and meet all state environmental standards, according to an Associated Press report.

"The accusation that the wells will cause 'DEATH' is a baseless and malicious attempt to damage the reputations of the plaintiffs," the complaint states.

"The billboards are also defamatory because they state or imply that Mr Adams and Buckeye Brine are causing 'poisoned waters' to enter the drinking water supply."

Ohio is one of a handful of states that allow oil and gas companies to dispose of flowback water in deep underground probes. Operators in hot drilling areas like Pennsylvania, where injection wells are not allowed, transport their drilling wastewater to Ohio for disposal.

There has been no evidence of aquifer contamination in Ohio as a result of injection wells. However, the wells have been linked to increases in earthquakes in the state and in Oklahoma, among other areas.

Boals, a 55-year-old timber harvester, told the AP that the Buckeye Brine complaint misrepresents his statements. He says the billboards are an expression of his protected right of free speech.

"You can't defame someone with an opinion in Ohio," his attorney was quoted as saying. "You can't control an idea. The way we control ideas is in the marketplace of ideas, not in a court."

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