Residents and stakeholders squared off at the Robinson Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
The board made final rulings on conditional-use permit requests filed by Range Resources to drill on properties owned by Roger and Susan Kendall on Foley Road and by Michelle Parees and Robert Frame off Midway-Candor Road.
Citing insufficient documents by Range, supervisors voted down both permits based on failures to comply with criteria set forth in municipal codes, including improper submission of a site plan, failure to demonstrate operations would comply with noise standards and a lack of answers to board questions.
The board passed separate, unanimous motions to deny each application.
Before the board made their decisions, community members on both sides of the issue used the public comment portion of the meeting to let their stances be known.
Some of the roughly 70 residents packed into the garage of the municipal building, which was used because it had double the capacity of the regular meeting room, believed supervisors were unjustly holding up proceedings.
“I’ve been to every meeting and I keep hearing the same questions,” said Robinson resident John Campbell. “Why is there a hold up here while in Smith Township everything is working?”
During the meeting, supervisors went into executive session to discuss lawsuits filed by Range Resources Jan. 28, alleging Robinson is deliberately refusing to make decisions regarding the two properties.
Supervisors argued, while they want to make a decision, they couldn’t ethically do so without the proper documentation from Range.
“Is it your position that if Range doesn’t answer our questions, we should just approve it anyway?” chairman Brian Coppola asked Campbell. “It’s not the board’s responsibility to do their work for them. How can we vote to pass their permit when we don’t have the proper information?”
Township special legal counsel Jonathan Kamin assured the audience the issue before them was a specific case of a company not providing proper documentation, not a trial of the industry.
“It has nothing to do with if you feel drilling is good or bad,” Kamin said, “but whether it meets the provisions. It’s not a philosophical question, but whether it meets what’s in our ordinance.”
One man suggested some of his fellow residents’ ire was misplaced.
“We’ve had wells before,” said Neil Matchett of Robinson. “Same board members, same rules. All of a sudden, things have changed.”
However, Matchett argued it wasn’t Robinson’s board being obstructionist but rather the energy industry’s reaction to new Pennsylvania legislation.
“The one thing that changed was Act 13. It seems obvious to me that Range is playing a game … They’ve got new lawyers and something changed in their philosophy.”
Sandy Ulrich gave an impassioned plea in defense of Robinson’s supervisors, managers and solicitor.
“How many of you know Mr. Coppola doesn’t take any salary for his position?” Ulrich asked. “The legacy of this board (will be) they did their best for the residents of this township. Don’t let Range tell you any different.”
In an email sent following the board meeting, Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella disagreed.
“We’ve provided all of the necessary information and answered all of the questions posed during the process just as we did two years ago, but it’s been a half of a year and the township continues to delay this process indefinitely,” Pitzarella said. “We’re more than willing to make changes, answer questions or adjust our schedule to best integrate with a community throughout the process, just as we do in hundreds of municipalities across the country.”