The fate of sealed court records outlining a legal settlement between a Mt. Pleasant Township couple and a group of gas drilling companies is in the hands of Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca.
The judge said Friday she will review arguments and previous court records before determining whether to unseal records of court proceedings involving Stephanie and Chris Hallowich and Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream.
The Observer-Reporter and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are seeking to have the records unsealed, contending the records contain pertinent information and should be open to public review.
The oil companies want the records to remain sealed, claiming that an court order opening them would jeopardize all legal settlements containing a confidentiality clause.
“If you allow the newspapers to open this up, you are infringing on every attorney’s right to negotiate confidential agreements,” said attorney Phillip J. Binotto Jr., who spoke in court on behalf of all the gas companies. The Hallowiches gained national attention after claiming that nearby drilling operations, a compressor station and a gas processing plant made their property that they purchased in 2005 worthless and posed health risks to their family.