Lawyers, believe it or not, have some code of ethics, and one of them is a taboo on “client abandonment”. Meaning it is considered unethical to abandon a client that has fallen on hard times. Such appears to be the case, albeit ironically, with the plaintiffs in both the Dryden and Middlefield appeals – neither of them are motivated to appeal the trial court rulings, which was subsequently affirmed by the Binghamton court, so neither of them have paid their lawyer to appeal the cases. Since the lawyer had essentially run out of time to file, he filed anyway, as Liz Benjamin relates here, on both corporate welfare queen Jennifer Huntington’s suit against her home town of Middlefield, and born-again-billionaire Phil Anschutz’s suit against Dryden which had to be farmed out to a Rent-A-Plaintiff so that it would not be rejected by the appellate court – for lack of a fracking plaintiff.
So these lawsuits will proceed to appeal for strictly political purposes, not economic ones, since neither lawsuit has any economic substance whatsoever: Anschutz sold two leases to the hastily arranged Rent-A-Plaintiff, Norwegian penny stock Norse Energy, to give it nominal standing for $10 a pop and has abandoned its other leases as rank speculations. The Middlefield plaintiff, who was subsidized by Anschutz in her court filings, no longer has a lease, much less any plausible prospects of hitting an economic gas well on her property. The appeals survive and are paid for as hollow political gestures by the same gas companies that run the Gas Blonde TV ads every 15 minutes, and that write New York’s fracking regs for their scribes at the DEC. So these two fracking farces now slouch toward appeal after the plaintiff’s attorney insulted the two trial court judges in public at the Albany Law School. Bon chance as they say at Schlumberger. Then there is this nonsensical threat down in Highland, which reads as even more frivolous than Cooperstown Holstein vs Middlefield, which turned out to be little more than an elaborate publicity stunt.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone from Texas, where Cabot, XTO and Range are from, or Oklahoma, where Chesapeake is from: The notion that local land use ordinances do not or should not apply to gas wells is a complete fracking New York fairy tale. No Texas land use lawyer could argue otherwise with a straight face. Which is why these appeals are being handled by an Albany lobbyist, Tom West, who now must dutifully drag his two zombie clients to the appellate court, just in time for Halloween.
Meanwhile, over 140 towns have taken steps to protect themselves, and 40 have passed outright bans. Has your town passed the municipal IQ test ? Or will your town be ripped apart for lack of a road and land use ordinance ?
Posted on October 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm by Liz Benjamin
Attorney Tom West has formally appealed two watershed state Supreme Court decisions that upheld local hydrofracking bans in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield. The Dryden (Tompkins County) case was initial brought by brought by an oil and gas company, the Middlefield (Otsego County) case by Jennifer Huntington, a dairy farmer and president of Cooperstown Holstein Corporation. Both cases, which essentially held that state law regulating gas drilling does not take away a town’s right to enact zoning, were initially decided in February. Appeals were expected, so the news that they are now formally in motion does not come as a surprise. West said the records on appeal, appellate briefs and fees for the appeals were filed in both cases yesterday in the Appellate Division, Third Department.
There has been some question as to who would be paying for these appeals. I asked West about that, and this was his response:
“There is very little funding for these appeals. In fact, although one operator has pledged a small amount, we have not been paid yet.”
So, in other words, West is appealing without getting paid? “Yes,” he said. The pertinent paperwork appears below. 20121012 FINAL Preemption Appellate Brief (Cooperstown v. Middlefield) 20121015 FINAL Dryden Brief (Appellate)