Mt. Pleasant hearing on Range impoundments continued for second time
Attorney Dwight Ferguson (foreground, second from left) addresses residents and clients after receiving news the Mt. Pleasant zoning board hearing would be continued for a second time.
Aaron Kendeall / Observer-Reporter
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Residents gathered at Mt. Pleasant fire hall building Tuesday for the second round of a hearing to decide the fate of water impoundments owned by Range Resources will have to attend yet another meeting to find out how the saga will end.
During a zoning hearing Aug. 13, testimony was continued when residents did not have the opportunity to speak as it neared 10 p.m. During the second installment of the hearing Tuesday night, Range attorney Shawn Gallagher requested a second continuance due to the unavailability of a witness.
Gallagher said a former employee whom the energy company planned to call to the stand could not attend because of a recent surgery. Both township solicitor Bill Johnson and zoning board officers agreed to the continuance, which would be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 8.
But Dwight Ferguson, an attorney representing seven families with properties close to the impoundments, was not pleased with the development.
“The continuance should preserve the status quo,” Ferguson said, “not allow in-between months and months of hearings to gather more documents, to gather more witnesses, to request the transcript and continue to build the case that it didn’t have on the first day of the hearing.”
Ferguson argued that if zoning officers had decided to proceed with the original hearing “into the wee hours of the night as it has in other hearings,” the former employee would not have testified.
Gallagher contended Ferguson should not be a party to the hearing because the matter was between the township and Range Resources. He pointed to section 200-164 of Mt. Pleasant’s zoning ordinance, which denied “any person or entity other than the Township the right to commence any action for enforcement.”
Johnson said he did not object to Ferguson’s involvement and Ferguson said he would submit a counterargument to the court before the next session.
In July, Mt. Pleasant sent Range Resources zoning-permit violation notices for one recycled water and three freshwater impoundments in the township after officials became aware the well pads closest to the sites stopped producing. The municipality wanted the impoundments removed and restored.
Water impoundments are essentially lined ponds or holding pits that act as a source of water for the hydraulic fracturing process or in the storage of used water byproduct. Natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation by forcing large volumes of water laced with chemicals into the rock to fracture it and release the gas, which is then pumped to the surface.
Because of the Hickory Apple Festival, the fire hall would not be available for use during the Oct. 8 hearing. Residents should contact the municipal building for venue information.