Lawyers eye gas-field business

A New York City law firm involved in achieving a settlement for responders injured after the 9/11 attacks has been reaching out to Garfield County residents about possible lawsuits over impacts of natural gas development.

Peter Thomas of the Aspen law firm Thomas Genshaft said Thursday his firm is serving as a local liaison with Marc Bern of Napoli Bern Ripka in New York.

“We are assisting property owners who have got documented evidence of water contamination and property damage and helping them evaluate potential claims,” Thomas said.

Bern and his firm participated in settling a suit for more than $700 million against New York City and other defendants. The suit was brought on behalf of more than 10,000 plaintiffs injured during rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Thomas said the firm also has been involved in claims involving the use of hydraulic fracturing in natural gas development in the East.

Bern could not be reached for comment last week.

Dave Devanney of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens said in an e-mail last week that the group had been contacted by an Aspen law firm that is “co-counsel with a large NYC law firm.” The firms wanted to talk about a possible lawsuit likely related to loss of property value because of drilling in and near Battlement Mesa, Devanney said.

Thomas said he had a conversation with the Battlement Mesa group, but his firm doesn’t represent any person or group there.

He added, “We’re really not even approaching people. People are calling us. We’re not actively soliciting anybody.”

He said attorneys received phone calls from some county residents, and it “snowballed from there.” He said attorneys have been getting a lot of calls from concerned property owners.

“To the extent something develops as we continue to investigate and analyze things, then we’ll see where it goes,” he said.

Beth Strudley lives near a gas well drilled by Antero Resources this year on Silt Mesa and says a doctor advised her family to move because of resulting health impacts.

“We’ve been approached by a couple of law firms recently, but we haven’t made any decisions about what we’re going to do about it. We’re going through all of our options,” she said.

Antero is proposing to drill up to 200 wells in Battlement Mesa. Kevin Kilstrom, an Antero vice president, did not return a call for comment.


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