Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Quiet News from Big Flats Water Case: Anschutz Pushes to Get it Over With

A thick set of legal filings from 12/28/2011 shows the defending Anschutz Exploration Corporation is pushing to expose the Fall 2010 water contamination complaints from Big Flats, NY, homeowners as groundless.

Anschutz, in a nutshell, is saying, "There's no there there."

Anschutz Filings 12-28-11

I do this out of a sense of alarm that the news-consuming public is being very badly misled by the cumulative impact of current media fashion and behavior. 

In fact, New York Times reporter Mireya Navarro — in the course of some counter-intuitive reporting on the economic boom PA fracking has triggered in the still-frackless Southern Tier of NY— recently provided another example of this phenomenon.  NYT editors chose to bury some details about the Big Flats case in a blog sidebar, rather than including them in the printed version of the main story.  And yet, in the process of even that burial, Navarro reported only the DEC's preliminary findings of its investigation — and not its significantly more damning final report, which I've had posted here since August 2011.

The case of Baker et al. versus Anschutz has not seen any new filings between July and December 2011.  To me, this raises a question as to the motives and seriousness of the plaintiffs' lawyers.  If there's, in fact, no there there, let me ask:  Are these lawyers working just hard enough to keep this thing slowly rolling — mainly because the case is good advertising for them in the course of drumming up possibly more lucrative, future clients?

The contrast in media coverage of the two sides of the Big Flats case clearly has something to do with the modern definition of news:  If an apparent little guy (to whom the public is pre-disposed to feel sympathetic) comes forward with spectacular-but-vague allegations against an apparent big guy (to whom the public is pre-disposed to dislike and mistrust), then that is unquestionably news.  News of the case against Anschutz, at the point of filing, was covered worldwide — triggered by an error-laden press release from the plaintiffs' lawyers, who specialize in this sort of litigation.

If, however — months or years later — the complaint turns out to lack scientific credibility, or legal credibility, or both, the media just let it fade away without much notice.  On some level, media people must feel uncomfortable running a story that actually accomplishes the public service of getting to the truth of the matter — which is that not all of these environmental complaints have merit.

What has become of NY AG Schneiderman's attempt to impede drilling in the multi-state Delaware River watershed — by pursuing a case against the federal government on grounds of insufficient environmental review?

What has become of the Maryland AG's once-announced plan to sue Chesapeake Energy over the broken wellhead incident at the Atgas well site (Township of Leroy, Bradford County, PA), which occurred hundreds of miles upstream of the Maryland state line in the then-swollen Susquehanna watershed?

What has become of Berish versus Southwestern, originally touted as one of the first water contamination cases in PA?

We don't know, because the media are incapable of fitting the actual current facts into anything that feels, to them, like a news story.

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