The recent release of court documents related to alleged drilling contamination in southwest Pennsylvania is a case study in how false narratives dominate the media, but accuracy and safety are stories apparently too boring to tell.
Virtually every newspaper in the region covered the claims made by the Hallowichs, which included inflammatory statements about ruined lives and negative health impacts, particularly for their children. Details about the case were sealed, and those covering the story simply assumed that the concealed documents proved the impacts true. Why else would a company wish to "hide" information about the case? Except those assumptions proved to be just as baseless as the claims themselves.
The recently unsealed documents include an affidavit from the homeowners that "there is presently no medical evidence" to support their own prior statements to the gullible media about health impacts ("Newspapers Seek Release of Shale Settlement," March 23). The affidavit also explicitly states that the children "are healthy and have no symptoms that may allegedly be related" to nearby natural gas development.
As for Range "hiding" the facts, the reality is that all parties involved -- including the plaintiffs -- agreed to keep the documents sealed.
There are risks in oil and gas development, and we all have an interest in proper regulatory enforcement and high operating standards. But perhaps before the media leap to outlandish assumptions about impacts and guilt, they should first consider the damage they can do -- and indeed have already done -- to what should be a fact-based public discussion about responsible development.
The writer works in business development for energy-related construction.