Chesapeake Energy seems to be in hurry-up-and-drill mode on land in Beaver County, PA in order to secure the land before the lease expires next week. They started drilling without first receiving a permit and are ignoring a stop-work order from the local township. Chesapeake claims the local ordinance states they only have to apply for a conditional-use permit—not receive it—in order to start drilling. The township says the opposite is true.
The legal wrangling is the latest development in a convoluted battle between a group of landowners and Chesapeake Energy Corp., the country’s second-largest producer of natural gas.
The landowners, including members of the McRoberts family of Darlington, claim Chesapeake bought invalid leases from another company and then tried to trick people into signing documents to legitimize the leases, said James Brink, a lawyer representing the landowners.
Disputed leases expire April 25, so the company is trying to drill a well before then to keep the mineral rights, he said.
Chesapeake spokeswoman Stacey Brodak said the company believes its lease is valid.
When the family refused to let a tree-cutting crew on the property last month, Chesapeake sued in federal court and obtained a restraining order.
The company then started moving earth without a conditional-use permit. Darlington zoning officer Jeffrey Frye issued a cease-and-desist order, citing a section of the township’s oil and gas ordinance that says a company needs a permit before commencing work.
Chesapeake responded with a letter citing a different section of the ordinance that it contends says the company needs only to apply for a permit before starting work.*
*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Apr 19, 2012) – Energy firm, county square off on permit