Cecil Township officials have reversed course from an earlier decision to initiate a private dialogue with Range Resources executives after the municipality’s insurance carrier warned them not to meet with the natural gas driller while the two are locked in litigation.
During a wild Monday night voting meeting, Cecil supervisors rescinded their offer to meet with Range out of fear by their insurance carrier that anything discussed could be used against the township.
The township May 15 received a letter from its liability carrier, ACE American Insurance Co., advising that it might be dropped or that the company might deny future insurance claims stemming from the litigation.
“I would ask that the Board of Supervisors refrain from any further direct communication with anyone from Range,” lawyer Patrick Connelly wrote in his letter.
Supervisor Andy Schrader, who pushed against the private meeting last month, read the letter during the meeting and persuaded the board to vote 4-1 to cancel its meeting plans. Supervisor Elizabeth Cowden, who requested the private discussions during last month’s meeting in an attempt to prevent more litigation, voted against the decision.
“It just concerns me,” Schrader said after the meeting. “If they want to have a private meeting like this, I don’t want to take a chance jeopardizing our coverage.”
The decision did not sit well with Cowden.
“I’m disappointed,” Cowden said about Monday night’s reversal. “That’s the way to open dialogue.”
However, she said she would be open to a public meeting between the two sides as long as the audience is not permitted to comment. It’s not known if the township and Range will discuss the possibility of an open meeting.
“I don’t want to see our communication shut down,” Cowden said.
Range Resources is locked in a legal battle with the township after filing a right-to-know request for records about executive session meetings and correspondence between municipal officials regarding natural gas drilling.
Meanwhile, the township still has not heard from state environmental regulators about a meeting to learn more details about the Worstell impoundment on Swihart Road.
Township Manager Don Gennuso was directed by the supervisors last month to send the state Department of Environmental Protection a letter asking for a meeting. Gennuso said Monday night he still has not heard from the DEP and has not been able to schedule a meeting.
Schrader said the meeting is becoming more important as residents living along Swihart Road have reported a parade of tanker trucks going in and out of that site.
“It’s becoming a dumping ground,” Schrader said. “We need to put some pressure on the DEP. I’m going to keep pushing for a public meeting for us.”
Gennuso said he planned to contact the DEP again this week to schedule the meeting.