For the second meeting in a row, Robinson Township Board of Supervisors continued a zoning hearing decision Monday on whether proposed Range Resources drilling sites would be approved.
During a Nov. 21 meeting, supervisors agreed to delay a vote on the approval of a conditional use permit on the property of Micheale F. Parees and Robert M. Frame off Midway-Candor Road. The hearing was reconvened at Monday’s meeting in order to give supervisors more time to review documents submitted for the site.
Range also had requested supervisors move the decision of a property owned by Roger and Susan Kendall near Foley Road in order for engineers to prepare documents.
Both locations are proposed sites for Marcellus Shale natural gas fracture drilling.
When supervisors moved to reconvene the hearing on the Parees property, Range lawyer Shawn Gallagher chose not to participate. Objecting to what he considered a breach of judicial procedure, Range officials declined to comment on the application.
“It’s highly inappropriate for you to continue this hearing,” Gallagher said. “Anything else is in excess of due process.”
Robinson solicitor John Smith disagreed.
“It’s the board’s decision when to close the hearing,” Smith said.
Board officials argued they had not had time to go over the large number of documents Range entered at the last meeting without offering sufficient time to review the materials. They said there were inaccuracies and omissions, as well as contradicting information including some property lines that were marked off differently on Range and municipal maps.
Much of the meeting’s dialogue was contentious as board members tried to get the specifics of Range’s site plans for both properties.
“You’re lack of understanding and blatant disregard for the law is not my problem, Mr. Copeland,” Gallagher said to chairman of the board Brian Coppola.
Members of the public showed frustration at the tone the legal representative took during the proceedings.
“I’ve watched this board have four wells done in a half hour,” said one resident. “Now we’ve got a lawyer that’s so rude to us people he won’t even answer any questions. I think it’s terrible.”
Without any further input from Range, supervisors again postponed a final decision until the next meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 14.
Range officials did speak during the zoning hearing for the Kendall property.
That site was proposed to contain between three and 10 wells on the 84.5-acre property, described as residential or agricultural field surrounded by trees. The well pad would be 520 by 300-feet with a 14.5-acre barrier.
A construction phase would last five weeks in which 19 trucks would access the site each day. A 21-day well site preparation phase would see minimal traffic to the location as onsite vehicles would be excavating and constructing the well pad. The delivery portion of the operation would last 70 days at a rate of 50 trucks-per-day. The actual drilling operation would then begin, lasting for 48 days and consisting of 24-hour activity.
Citing the same argument, supervisors voted to postpone their decision on the Kendall property until Jan. 14 in order to view exhibits Range submitted.
At the end of the hearing, some board members showed surprise at the tone of the proceedings.
“We just need to know,” Coppola said. “We’re not trying to make it any more difficult. “Mr. Gallagher, I just don’t understand this confrontational nature.”
Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella emailed this statement about the Robinson meeting.
“At the direction of their solicitor, who moonlights as a gas attack attorney, the suggestion that ‘Range won’t answer questions,’ is now the same tired excuse to try and demonize our company, as part of John Smith’s personal get rich quick scheme at the expense of the taxpayers. If we’ve proven one thing over the last eight years, its that we’re transparent and open questions and attorney John Smith has proven he’s out for himself not communities.”