Free speech and Thompson Divide win the week

Pete Kolbenschlag

On Wednesday, a Delta County judge dismissed an SG Interests lawsuit against Pete Kolbenschlag. The company filed suit in February 2017, in response to a comment Kolbenschlag posted to an article at the Glenwood Post Independent website in November 2016.

The article was about a BLM decision that had cancelled 25 oil & gas leases in the Thompson Divide area. Houston-based SG Interests owns 18 of those leases. In the article, the company announced it would file a lawsuit based on evidence that it claimed pointed to collusion between the Obama administration and environmental interests to reach a “predetermined political decision.”

Kolbenschlag pointed out in his comment that SG Interests was “actually fined for colluding … to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers.”

As Judge Steven Schultz pointed out in his 21-page decision this week, Kolbenschlag’s statement was true, citing several press accounts from 2012-13, describing penalties levied against SG Interests totaling $550,000 for antitrust violations.

Read more about it here:

Judge: Paonia activist didn’t libel energy firm

Important Victory Against An Oil Company’s Censorious SLAPP Suit In Colorado

Lawsuits like SG Interests v. Pete Kolbenschlag are considered SLAPP suits. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, whereas a big company attempts to silence a vocal activist to set an example for others to back off and keep their mouths shut.

But the judge slapped back. Free speech prevailed.

Around the same time SG Interests sued Kolbenschlag, they did indeed file a lawsuit against the BLM over their 18 cancelled leases in the Thompson Divide. The SG Interests leases are part of 25 undeveloped oil & gas leases covering 33,000 acres of wildlife habitat and roadless areas that support local agriculture and provide water to local communities.

That lawsuit was settled out of court today when the BLM agreed to pay SG Interests $1.5 million.

Read more about it here:

BLM to pay $1.5 million in canceled leases case

Settlement snuffs development of 18 gas leases in Thompson Divide

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