What do you do when your water goes bad, your health deteriorates, and your once peaceful life has been upended by gas drilling operations near your home? The obvious answer is to sue the drillers. This is what the Lauff family in Mt. Pleasant Pennsylvania did.
In November 2014, the Lauff family filed a lawsuit naming Range Resources – Appalachia LLC, and their contractors Markwest Liberty Midstream And Resources LLC, Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P., The Gateway Engineers Inc., New Dominion Construction Inc., And Highland Environmental LLC as defendants.
So what makes this case so different than others filed against drilling companies?
The Lauff family also names the Carter family as defendants. The natural gas operations in question reside on land LEASED by the Carter family to Range Resources.
WHAT’S FRACKING ON THE CARTER PROPERTY?
Per the Lawsuit:
Significant oil and natural gas leasing, drilling exploration and extraction, pipeline construction, gas transportation, waste storage, waste transfer, water transfer, fracking fluidtransfer, transfer of other substances, venting condensate tanks, construction of access roads,waste and fresh water impoundments, drill pits, above ground waste water pipelines, bunk trailers, equipment storage, seismic testing, drilling, hydraulic fracturing, flaring, heavy equipment use, excessive truck traffic and transportation of oversized loads, and related activities have occurred on or in close proximity to Plaintiffs’ Property on and near multiple well pads having numerous wells and other structures reasonably believed to be engineered, constructed, designed, owned, leased, operated, used, drilled, maintained or otherwise controlled or facilitated by Defendants, including but not limited to:
- Cowden Units 3H, 4H, 5H, and 6H (within 1,000 feet from Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Cowden Unit 3H-6H”);
- Drugmand Units 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, 6H, 7H, and 8H (directly adjacent to Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Drugmand Unit”);
- Cowden Units 1H and 2H (approximately one half mile from Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Cowden Unit 1H-2H”);
- Carter Centralized Wastewater Impoundment (directly adjacent to Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Carter Wastewater Impoundment” or “Carter Impoundment”);
- Cowden “Freshwater” Impoundment (approximately one half mile from Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Cowden Freshwater Impoundment”);
- Natural gas gathering and transmission lines (directly adjacent to and/or near Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Pipeline”);
- Pig Launching Station (directly adjacent to Plaintiffs’ Property) (hereinafter referred to as “Pig Launcher”);
- An access road just west of Plaintiffs’ Property (runs parallel for approximately 524 feet along the western property line of Plaintiffs’ Propertyand is as close as approximately 17 feet) (hereinafter referred to as “Access Road”); and
- Other unnamed/unknown natural gas wells, pads, and/or other structures in the vicinity of Plaintiffs’ Property.
The Lauff’s purchased the 7.16 acre property in 1995. They own the mineral rights and have not leased these rights to any person or entity.
The Lauff’s had never experienced any problems with water supply, air quality, emissions, noises, dust, odors or any other environmental issues impacting the peaceful habitation of their property. This changed in late 2009 when drilling and fracking began on the Carter property.
Beginning in early 2010, during the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of Cowden wells 3H-6H, and continuing to the present, Plaintiffs experienced a total loss of water in their water well, upon which Lauff’s previously relied as their only source of water. Their deep well water, holding tank, and water filtration system has been and continues to be polluted and contaminated with what is reasonably believed to be fluid or other substances from Range’s operations.
The Lauff’s had to connect to a public water supply.
According to Pennsylvania law, Pa. Code §78.51(a), Range Resources is required to pay for the replacement water. Range Resources has not done this.
CARTER WASTEWATER IMPOUNDMENT
Prior to the start of drilling, Range Resources filed Act 14 Notification for Intent for Coverage Under the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit (ESCGP-1) for Earth Disturbance submitted to Mount Pleasant Township on December 2, 2008. Range Resources represented the impoundment pond would hold fresh water.
Approximately 1 year later in December 2009, Range Resources filed an Act 14 Notification for an Application for a Dam Permit for a Centralized Impoundment Dam for Marcellus Shale Gas Wells to Mount Pleasant Township, but did not specific whether the impoundment would hold fresh water or fracturing fluids.
In January 2010, filed a Dam Permit Application for Centralized Impoundment Dam for Marcellus Shale Gas Wells (OG0084), Range represented to PA DEP that the Carter Wastewater Impoundment would store both fresh water and fracturing fluid, when Range was required to only choose one option.
The original intent, according to Range’s Dam Permit Application, the Carter Wastewater impoundment was suppose to be merely an incidental/accessory use for the the drilling of the Drugmand wells 1H-7H and the Cowden wells 2H and 3H-6H.
However, Range subsequently began to use this impoundment as a storage, processing, and transfer facility (essentially a regional toxic waste dump site) for the waste generated by in excess of 190 wells, the vast majority of which were not Drugmand wells 1H-7H and/or Cowden wells 2H and 3H-6H.
These well sites are reasonably believed to include, but not limited to, the following: ALOE FAMILY UNITS 2H-5H; BAKERSTOWN UNITS 2H-5H; BARE WARREN UNITS 4H-5H; BOVARD DOROTHY UNITS 1H-8H; BURNSWORTH S&T UNIT 10H-15H; CARNES DONALD UNITS 11H-13H and 19H-22H; CASTRO ET AL UNITS 1H-5H; CHECHUCK GEORGE UNITS 1H-4H; CHIARELLI UNITS 1H, 3H, 4H, 8H, and 10H; CLAYSVILLE SPORTSMANS UNITS 2H-5H, COWDEN UNITS 3H-6H; CROSS CREEK COUNTY PARK 17H-19H and 45H-53H; DRUGMAND UNITS 1H-8H; FRANKLIN LAKEVIEW ESTATES UNITS 4H-6H and 12H-15H; GREEN DOROTHY UNIT 1H-6H; IMPERIAL LAND UNITS 11H-17H; KANCEL UNITS 1H-8H; KRAEER UNITS 1H-6H; MARGARIA RAYMOND UNITS 1H-4H; MCWREATH UNITS 2H-9H; MENICHI UNITS 2H, 3H, 5H, and 8H; MIDLER/FROEBE B UNITS 5H-8H; MOORE RICHARD UNITS 1H and 3H-10H; NOSS UNITS 1H-6H; PARIS B 5H-8H; PETRICCA DANIEL UNITS 1H-6H; SCHILLER GERALD UNITS 1H-4H and 6H; STEFKOVICH JEROME UNITS 1H-4H; STEN UNITS 5H-9H; STRAWN ROBERT UNITS 1H-10H; VARNER UNITS 4H and 6H-10H; YANAVICH UNITS 1H-5H; and ZAPPI PETE UNITS 1H-6H.
PIPELINES and PIGGING
Currently cutting across the Carter property are two pipelines, with an expected 3-4 more being proposed. Construction began in 2009 and continued at least until mid-2012.
In the process of constructing and not properly reclaiming the construction area near the Pipeline in this location, MarkWest and Range did not take proper erosion precautions, such that stormwater and sediment runoff frequently ran off of the Pipeline construction site and onto the Lauff’s property thereby causing and contributing to cause significant erosion, sediment transfer, flooding and damages to vegetation and trees on their property. Due to the discharge pipe that was placed just west of of the Lauff’s property line, the stormwater discharge onto their property was greatly concentrated.
Around April 2013 Range, MarkWest, and/or Sunoco constructed a series of Pig Launchers approximately 150 yards from
Plaintiffs’ home and approximately 50 yards from Plaintiffs’ Property line.
Pigging operations include but are not limited to cleaning and inspecting the pipeline. This is accomplished by inserting the pig into a ‘pig launcher’ (or ‘launching station’) – an oversized section in the pipeline, reducing to the normal diameter. The launcher / launching station is then closed and the pressure-driven flow of the product in the pipeline is used to push it along down the pipe until it reaches the receiving trap – the ‘pig catcher’ (or ‘receiving station’).
This is done without stopping the flow of the product in the pipeline and results in venting.
There are at least three stacks at the Pig Launcher that vented at least twice a day to discharge the air emissions from the pipelines during and after the pigging process. During the venting process, numerous hazardous and toxic air contaminants and noxious petrochemical odors are released into the air without any apparent control or regard for capturing these emissions.
Toxic emissions include but are not limited to Benzene, Ethyl benzene, Toluene, M-Xylene, O-Xylene, P-Xylene, N-Heptane, N-Octane, N48 Hexane, 2-Butanone (MEK), 1,2,4,-Trimethylbenzene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Cyclohexane, D-Limonene, Ethanol, Acetone, and tetrachloroethylene.
By including property owners who lease and/or grant easements this lawsuit holds the property owners just as responsible as the fossil fuel corporations for damages. With the inclusion of pipelines and related equipment, it could be a significant factor for communities and groups opposing pipelines going through their area.
Pending a favorable outcome for the Lauff’s, it could set a precedent for future lawsuits and make those who are thinking about leasing or granting easements to think about it again.
This is a MUST WATCH lawsuit.
©2014 by Dory Hippauf