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A well drilling rig works in the eastern plains of Colorado to reach the Niobrara Shale formation.A well drilling rig works in the eastern plains of Colorado to reach the Niobrara Shale formation. (Jon Mullen / iStockphoto.com.)

As Chief Judge Richard Posner famously recognized, “[t]he courtroom is not the place for scientific guesswork, even of the inspired sort. Law lags science; it does not lead it.” Rosen v. Ciba-Geigy Corp., 78 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir. 1996). This oft-cited maxim is particularly applicable in litigation involving hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and in determining whether these operations pose health risks to people living in communities near well sites.

Scientists and researchers are paying close attention to this issue — indeed, no fewer than 16 studies have been published in the peer-reviewed literature, many in the past year alone. Given the high emotion and evident special interests on all sides of this issue, it is especially important that courts follow Posner’s maxim and hold true to long-established principles of causation when analyzing hydraulic-fracturing cases.

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