Robinson Township reaches settlement with Range

June 9, 2014
Robinson Township residents listen during the township supervisors meeting Monday. - Karen Mansfield / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Robinson Township supervisors on Monday approved a settlement offer proposed by Range Resources regarding two well pad applications that Washington County Judge John DiSalle recently ruled supervisors wrongly denied in February 2013.

According to the proposal, Range will drop its request for legal fees, costs and damages in relation to the litigation in the Court of Common Pleas and will withdraw litigation in Commonwealth Court seeking a ruling that the township’s grading and subdivision land development ordinances don’t apply to the a 167-acre property owned by Michelle Parees and Robert Frame, and the 84-acre parcel owned by Rodger and Susan Kendall.

In return, the township will agree not to appeal DiSalle’s ruling and will confirm those two ordinances do not apply to the Parees and Kendall sites.

The township’s solicitor, Alan Shuckrow, advised supervisors to accept the settlement offer.

“We have researched the question … if the subdivision land development ordinance and the grading ordinance would apply to these pending applications and have concluded and advised board they would not apply,” said Shuckrow.

Shuckrow also noted, to date, the cases were insurance carrier, which paid legal costs. On Friday, however, the township was notified by the insurance carrier it will no longer represent the township if the township appeals the court’s ruling, leaving to township to pay its own legal fees going forward and paying damages and fees to Range Resources if the company wins its case.

Shuckrow said Range informed him the company’s legal fees at this point are about $300,000.

“Given the associated risks and costs, we recommend the township accept Range’s settlement offer,” said Shuckrow.

Supervisors approved the settlement proposal by a 2-0-1 vote. Supervisors Mark Brositz and Stephen Duran voted in favor of the proposal. Kendall abstained.

Range now has the go-ahead to develop the two well sites.

Range claimed when it sued the township Jan. 28, 2013, that Robinson supervisors deliberately refused to make decisions on the applications to drill on the Parees and Kendall properties.

A conditional-use hearing to drill on the Parees and Frame property off of Midway Candor Road was held Nov. 20, 2012, but a decision on the application was delayed multiple times by township supervisors. A hearing for the Kendall property along Valley View Road was scheduled for Dec. 10, 2012, but that, too, was delayed several times.

Both applications eventually were denied Feb. 14, 2013, but DiSalle ruled that too much time had elapsed since the close of the conditional-use hearings. He added that Range Resources did not agree to delays that would gave township officials longer than 45 days to make a decision.

DiSalle also ruled that the Imperial Tank Pad application filed by Range also was wrongly delayed. Shuckrow said that application will be sent to the planning commission for review at its meeting next week.

DiSalle gave the township time to continue its review of that application “in good faith and in accordance with the law,” since it was filed just three weeks before Range’s lawsuit.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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