Judge denies motion to dismiss energy company’s lawsuit over online comment

Post Independent (Glenwood Springs): A judge has denied a motion to dismiss a libel suit that energy company SG Interests has brought against a Paonia environmental activist.

Pete Kolbenschlag, who has been active in fighting energy development in the North Fork Valley, posted a Facebook comment to a Post Independent story on SG Interests early this year after some big news came out about their nearby natural gas leases.

SG Interests is a Texas-based oil and gas company that held the majority of the leases on the Thompson Divide, which the BLM announced in November 2016 that it was cancelling.

Following the BLM’s decision, SG Interests said it would take the matter to federal court to recover lost profits. The company alleged that the Obama administration had colluded with environmental interests to reach a “predetermined political decision” on the bulk cancellation of leases.

Commenting to the Post Independent’s coverage of that announcement, Kolbenschlag wrote, “While SGI alleges ‘collusion’ let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding (with Gunnison Energy Corporation) to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers. Yes, these two companies owned by billionaires thought it appropriate to pad their portfolios at the expense of you and I and every other hard-working American.”

That comment prompted the energy company to file a libel lawsuit against Kolbenschlag in February.

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