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ProPublica reporter: ‘circle around the story’

May 3, 2011

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Nick Kusnetz
This ProPublica graphic shows the anatomy of a natural-gas well.

Nick Kusnetz of ProPublica.org didn’t let a lack of information from Chesapeake Energy and state regulators keep him from exploring why it took 13 hours for an emergency crew from Texas to respond to the company’s gas-well leak in Pennsylvania.

After all, the state had announced in 2010, after previous accidents, that an emergency-response company would be available in Pennsylvania to handle situations such as this one in Bradford County. But by the time the out-of-state team arrived, “brine water and hydraulic-fracturing fluids from the well had spewed across nearby fields and into a creek,” Nick writes.

“If you circle around the story enough, you’ll find a way of going about it,” Nick says.

“It was hard to do this story without their responses, but we knew it was a story, so we had to find a way,” Nick says. “In this case, that meant finding a [state] notice of violation with some details, and talking to some of the other players involved in the story.”

He talked to the Pennsylvania company that could have handled the situation and the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  Interestingly, after the story ran, Chesapeake Energy emailed Nick additional information, which he added to the story.

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