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Texas company faces opposition to drilling in some local communities

2/26/2013 | Real Estate Blog

Hydraulic fracturing, as our readers known, is a drilling process in which water, sand and chemicals are blasted underground to break apart rock and free up trapped natural gas. The process has brought about a surge in energy production to Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado, and lowered natural gas costs.

The spreading use of the drilling process has not only led to the recent passage of a state law removing the ability of local officials to put zoning limitations on drillers, but has also brought on complaints from local landowners and famers, who say that leaks for holding ponds, spills and underground ruptures have led to contamination of their water supplies.

Range Resources, Corp., a Fort Worth-based company that pioneered the use of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, has reportedly taken a hard line with residents, local officials and activists that oppose drilling. The company has reportedly stopped participating in town hearings to review its own applications to drill because local officials were asking too many questions and taking too long. It has even taken legal action against at least one landowner who voiced his fears to federal regulators that the company poisoned his well.

Last year, the company filed two applications to drill in Robinson Township, near Pittsburgh. Eventually, it filed a letter with the town, saying that delays in the application process violated its due-process rights. Recently, the town voted down the company’s applications after it refused to answer the board’s follow-up questions. But even before that, the company sued the town, arguing that it had unfairly delayed approval. Similar dynamics happened between nearby Cecil Township and the company.

In a separate case, the company has issued a cease-and-desist letter to an anti-fracking blogger who published a video of Texas landowner holding a hose hooked up to his water well, which he said had so much methane in it that he could light it on fire.

The company surely faces its share of difficulties in moving forward, with the number of opponents in Pennsylvania. It isn’t clear how the friction between the company and local officials compares to the experience of other companies.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Firm accused of bullying fracking foes,” Mark Frajem, February 22, 2013