Kudos to Erica Peterson over at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, for pointing out that two state lawmakers — Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, and new House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton — gave identical speeches on Wednesday promoting the oil and gas industry.
Ironically, Chesapeake Energy announced the next day that it was eliminating more than 200 Charleston-area jobs. And the day after that, NiSource said it was cutting 170 jobs in West Virginia, as Gazette business editor Eric Eyre reported.
Chesapeake and its CEO, Aubrey McClendon, blamed Chesapeake’s job cuts on the more than $400 million that a Roane County jury awarded to landowners who said they were ripped off in an oil and gas royalty scam. Chesapeake was especially irritated when the state Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal of the jury verdict.
In October, the companies settled the case, ending any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s important to note that NiSource will cover $338.8 million of the $380 million settlement, or nearly 90 percent of the costs. So is NiSource blaming its job cuts on West Virginia’s court system, runaway courts and jackpot justice?
Well, as Eric Eyre reported, NiSource has previously called the verdict “excessive” and criticized the judge for not allowing the jury to hear “key evidence.” But when its job cuts were announced this week, here’s what Eyre reported on that issue:
On Friday, a NiSource spokesman said the jury verdict and state Supreme Court ruling had nothing to do with the company’s decision to eliminate jobs in West Virginia.
“This had nothing to do with court rulings and decisions made by other companies or the business climate in West Virginia,” said Karl Brack, NiSource’s vice president of communications and engagement strategies. “This was about the need for our company to become more efficient and effective amid the current economic climate.”
On Friday, an official with the American Trial Lawyer Association apologized for comparing folks who don’t buy into the “lawsuit abuse” argument about West Virginia’s court system to holocaust deniers.