Judge again dismisses lawsuit against fracking opponents

BUTLER (AP) — A judge has again dismissed a lawsuit that landowners filed against people and groups who oppose fracking in a western Pennsylvania township.

Natural gas drilling has been delayed in Middlesex, Butler County while some of the rural community’s 800 residents challenge a zoning ordinance that would allow drilling in 90 percent of the rural township.

Dewey Homes and Investment Properties and 12 landowners sued the drilling opponents, seeking damages for royalties they’ve been unable to collect from gas drilling companies who have leases to drill on their land.

A Butler County judge dismissed the lawsuit in September, but allowed the landowners to file an amended complaint, which he struck down Tuesday.

The fracking foes claimed the litigation was a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP suit, meant to silence their opposition and free-speech rights. The judge agreed.