A panel of appeals court judges ruled today that a court case over gas industry secrecy must be heard by a trial court, despite objections from the gas industry.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Observer-Reporter are seeking to intervene to overturn a court order sealing the record in a case in which a Pennsylvania family sued several gas companies over property damage and health impacts related to air and water pollution from nearby natural gas operations. The gas companies are fighting to keep the records out of the public eye. As a result of today's ruling, the newspapers will have the opportunity to present their argument to the trial court that the record should be unsealed so that the public can access information regarding this case.
The newspapers were joined in the case earlier this year by a group of doctors, scientists, researchers and advocates seeking access to information that could shed light on the health impacts of gas development, including the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, the group—Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Dr. Bernard D. Goldstein, Dr. Walter Tsou, Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, Dr. William Rom, Dr. Mehernosh P. Khan, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Dr. Simona Perry, Dr. Robert Oswald, Dr. Michelle Bamberger, Kathryn Vennie, and Earthworks—filed an amicus brief in April supporting the newspapers.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Matthew Gerhart:
“We’re glad that the court ruled against industry’s attempt to block this case from proceeding. As long as the gas industry continues to hide chemical information, fight journalists seeking the truth, and silence families to prevent them from speaking out, it will never gain the public’s trust—and rightly so. Instead of obstructing access to information, gas companies should be disclosing the information necessary to understand the health impacts of fracking.”