Range Resources’ suppliers ordered to reveal Amwell drilling chemicals

  • By Scott Beveridge November 5, 2013
This Google Earth image shows Range Resources' Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township.

All suppliers to Range Resources’ drilling site and fracking impoundment in Amwell Township must turn over a detailed list of their product’s formula under a lawsuit filed by nearby residents who claim they were sickened by the operation, a Washington County court order states.

President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca gave 40 contractors and subcontractors to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration company’s Yeager site on McAdams Road 30 days to provide the court with all chemicals, components or substances used there since 2009, court records show.

Her Tuesday order followed a status conference Thursday on the July 2012 lawsuit filed by Cecil Township attorneys John and Kendra Smith on behalf of eight Amwell residents who also claim the drilling project contaminated their well water.

The order is a result of the “plaintiffs’ efforts to determine what was used at the site and when,” John Smith said, declining to comment further on the record about the case.

Range has denied the allegations and argued in court documents that the plaintiffs failed to provide the court with clear evidence of their injuries.

The 25-count lawsuit charges Range with negligence, partly over allegations it allowed a hole to develop in the impoundment pond’s liner and contaminate the soil and groundwater.

The lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney; Beth, John and Ashley Voyles; and Loren and Grace Kiskadden.

In court documents, Stacey Haney claimed to have suffered neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms consistent with toxic exposure. In a separate appeal to the state Environmental Hearing Board, Loren Kiskadden claimed his well water turned gray and foamed as a result of the contamination.

Kiskadden accused Range in the EHB suit of not knowing or being able to determine all of the chemicals used at its Pennsylvania drilling sites.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said they are complying with the order, but expected it to be a “lengthy process” to release information on every fluid at the sites. He said the order is so detailed that it includes even engine lubricants for vehicles that were used at those locations.

“They’re asking for and we’re supplying every and any chemical on the location,” Pitzarella said.

He was adamant that environmental regulators have found no contamination in that area.

“They’ve not seen any evidence or any issues with our activities with water wells or the air,” Pitzarella said.

The lawsuit fills 20 case files in the county prothonotary’s office and has spawned calls for reform from one state lawmaker and a string of environmental groups.

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, has called for an investigation into the state Department of Environmental Protection as a way for residents to obtain more accurate reporting information at drilling sites.

Meanwhile, environmental groups, such as Clean Water Action, have cited the Yeager case in pleas to Gov. Tom Corbett to order reforms at the DEP in regards to Marcellus oversight.

In a separate case before Commonwealth Court filed by the Voyles against the DEP over regulating the Yeager impoundment, the higher court ordered Range on Sept. 23 to remove any fluids from the pond and not use it for any purpose in preparation for its November closing, the record shows.

The company’s attorney in the Washington County case, Dennis Mulvihill, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Staff writer Mike Jones contributed to this story.

Scott Beveridge has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1986 after previously working at the Daily Herald in Monongahela. He is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts and art education programs and Duquesne University’s master of liberal arts program. He is a 2004 World Affairs journalism fellow.


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