In the last 18 months, I've written about Little Blue Run a couple of times. (Most recently here.) Located at the tip of West Virginia's panhandle and reaching into Pennsylvania, the First Energy pond is the largest coal ash dump in the country. The pond has produced a host of problems for the local Pennsylvania and West Virginia residents and coal ash's favorite congressman, David McKinley, has done nothing to help them. The affected residents of both states sued First Energy and earlier this year the Pennsylvania residents reached an out-of-court agreement with First Energy. I assumed a similar outcome for the affected WV residents and so you can imagine my surprise when I saw the headline on page 9 of this morning's Intelligencer (emphasis mine):
Little Blue Run Negligence Suit Dismissed
Here are the first two paragraphs:
A two-year-old lawsuit against FirstEnergy Generation LLC by homeowners in Lawrenceville over the company's Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment has been dismissed.
The dismissal came by way of mutual agreement between FirstEnergy and 61 residents, but it is unclear whether a settlement was reached.
Huh? The story never explains why the suit was dismissed if a settlement had not been reached. Since I no longer trust anything I read about coal companies in our local "newspapers," I looked for other sources and found the Beaver County Times' (PA) story. Here is their headline:
FirstEnergy settles lawsuit with 53 West Virginia residents concerning Little Blue Run contamination
And here's their first two paragraphs:
FirstEnergy Corp. has settled a lawsuit with 53 residents stemming from complaints that the company’s Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment leaked harmful contaminants into the water and air.
FirstEnergy settled a similar lawsuit with 15 Beaver County residents earlier this year after they too filed suit alleging Little Blue leaked arsenic, sulfates and chlorides into the environment.
I'm not a lawyer but it seems to me that the suit was dismissed because a settlement had been reached. If you read just the Intelligencer headline, however, you would probably assume that the judge was not allowing the suit to go forward. On the one hand, this could simply be a case of sloppy reporting or careless headline writing. On the other hand, given that studies (here, for instance) suggest that a majority of readers never get past the headlines, it's not hard to imagine the Intelligencer skewing the headline to give the appearance that the judge had ruled in First Energy's favor by dismissing the suit. My past experience suggests the likelihood of the latter.