Subpoena seeking gas co’s, reporter emails withdrawn

The lawyer for a Dimock man sued in 2017 by a natural gas driller withdrew a subpoena Thursday looking for the bank records and emails of a man who operates a pro-gas website and weekly newsletter.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., of Houston, Texas, brought suit against Ray Kemble of Dimock for violating the terms of a settlement agreement.

In its lawsuit against Kemble, Cabot alleged that Missouri-based lawyer Charles Speer teamed up with Pennsylvania attorneys Clancy Boylan and Edward Ciaramboli in 2012 to commence nuisance claims against natural gas operators in Pennsylvania. Cabot sued Kemble after the attorneys’ lawsuit was dismissed as frivolous earlier that year.

Since it was filed in 2017, several hearings have been held in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas on numerous motions filed in connection with the suit.

Kemble’s attorney had sought the bank records, financial statements, and emails of Tom Shepstone, owner of Shepstone Wealth Management and a vocal supporter of the natural gas industry. Shepstone runs Natural Gas Now, which bills itself as the “Newspaper of Natural Gas Advocacy” on its website, offering up a weekly newsletter to subscribers.

Shepstone’s attorney argued the request for financial records dating back to 2010 was “burdensome.” He also maintained that his client is a news reporter and any emails between Shepstone and Cabot and its drilling services division, GDS, would be protected under the confidential communications to news reporters statute.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press explains on their website: “The Pennsylvania Shield Law and the First Amendment reporter’s privilege provide broad protections to reporters in Pennsylvania who are subpoenaed for their notes, documents and/or testimony.”

Shepstone’s attorney also argued that the information sought by Kemble’s attorney was not relevant to Cabot’s lawsuit against Kemble.

With some back-and-forth between President Judge Jason Legg and lawyers for both Kemble and Shepstone, it was argued in court as to whether Shepstone is a news reporter, with Kemble’s attorney maintaining he could possibly be paid by the gas industry.

Kemble’s attorney said he believed it was imperative that Shepstone be present in the courtroom to answer questions and said he would work with opposing council to limit the scope of the subpoena.

After a conference at the bench with all attorneys, including Cabot attorney Amy Barrette, the subpoena for Shepstone was withdrawn, without prejudice.

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