Court Records in in Natural Gas Case Reveal No Health Impacts
By by Tom Shepstone:
While some media outlets fairly reported a story about the release of court records in a fabled and now settled case against some natural gas companies operating in Southwest Pennsylvania, others painted a picture of hidden contamination from hydraulic fracturing. The only thing being hidden, however, is what was was left out of the story by some of these outlets: the fact the plaintiffs agreed their health had not been impacted as they had alleged.
We cannot help but notice the varied ways media outlets have reported the story about the release of court records in the case where the Hallowich family (the plaintiffs) sued Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams/Laurel Mountain Midstream, three natural gas companies, over alleged contamination of their air and water. The case was settled in 2011 and the court records were sealed at the joint request of the plaintiffs and defendants.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others, challenged the sealing of the records. Upon their release, the newspaper produced a story that left out the central fact: the plaintiffs recanted their claims of having their lived ruined and health compromised. Contrast this with the story from its competitor, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which was headlined “Washington County Couple Collects $750K Settlement in Fracking Case with No Medical Evidence to Support Health Claims,” which speaks for itself. It was likewise for the Associated Press, which noted: ”The documents released Wednesday also show the Hallowichs agreed there was no medical evidence that drilling harmed their health or their children’s health.”
State Impact Pennsylvania, however, filed a recent post headlined Drilling Companies Agree to Settle Fracking Contamination Case for $750,000 that, without explicitly saying so, implied some secret settlement had hidden away supposed contamination resulting from hydraulic fracturing. ...cont.
Cont...... They, too, never mentioned the reversal of the bigger story. Nonetheless, they did highlight the key points in their released version of the records themselves, and provided any interested reader with all the facts – if they were willing to dig for them.
Bloomberg News reported on the release by issuing a very detailed (and biased) story that somehow missed two DEP studies finding no evidence to support the plaintiff claims. Bloomberg, like the Post-Gazette and StateImpact, also failed to mention the affidavit where the plaintiffs reversed their position, offering in its place this piece of incitement:
In disputes from Wyoming to Texas to Pennsylvania, gas drillers have often demanded homeowners keep quiet about their complaints in exchange for buying their properties, delivering fresh water or paying out a settlement. Without the information about those individual cases, health and environmental groups say they can’t assess the risks of fracking.
Bloomberg included a “Serious Allegations” subtitle and quote from EarthJustice, as if it was the seriousness of the charge and not the truth that mattered. The truth is a much different story, as it turns out and it’s not really all that new. There is no evidence in the record or elsewhere suggesting a link between any well or operation of Range, MarkWest or Williams and any purported contamination