Pa. Supreme Court won’t hear Amwell drilling case by Gideon Bradshaw, May 4, 2017, Observer Reporter
The state’s highest court won’t hear the appeal of an Amwell Township man who alleged state environmental regulators erred when they concluded activities at a fracking site near his property didn’t cause problems with his groundwater supply.
The court rendered a decision Tuesday denying a petition in which Loren Kiskadden sought to appeal a 6-1 ruling the Commonwealth Court issued in October that affirmed a 2015 decision of the Environmental Hearing Board. Among the issues Kiskadden’s attorneys raised was the claim the board had wrongly disregarded evidence indicating a hydrogeological connection between Range Resources’ Yeager site and a water well that services Kiskadden’s property about 2,700 feet away.
Kiskadden’s attorneys also argued a Commonwealth Court judge wrongly refused in an earlier decision to send the case back to the Environmental Hearing Board in light of evidence they said was withheld by Range but later emerged in a separate civil case.
“It’s unfortunate that the Pa. Supreme Court declined an opportunity to hear a case of first impression of water contamination associated with oil and gas activity in Pennsylvania from a known leaking site and to weigh in on the role the Pa. DEP played and the knowledge it should possess in making water determinations, especially in light of the revelation learned after trial that evidence was withheld from Mr. Kiskadden and the trial court that more than 10 chemical Frac and radioactive ‘tracers’ were used at the site,” John Smith, one of Kiskadden’s attorneys, said in an email.
Range, which had intevervened in the case, welcomed the decision.
“We are pleased that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided it was unnecessary to review the decisions that Range did not impact water supplies in question,” said company spokesman Michael Mackin. “These decisions were reached after a thorough investigation and evaluation of the facts by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, which the Commonwealth Court ultimately affirmed.”
Leaks at the Yeager impoundment and five others operated by Range in Washington County resulted in the DEP levying a $4.15 million fine against the natural gas producer in 2014.
Kiskadden alleged problems at the Yeager site had contributed to the contamination of his groundwater. He brought the case to the Environmental Hearing Board after DEP concluded gas well-related activities didn’t cause problems with Kiskadden’s drinking water. The agency did determine the water was polluted.
Kiskadden is one of the plaintiffs who allege they were exposed to hazardous materials as a result of operations at the Yeager site in an ongoing civil case in Washington County Court. [Emphasis added]