Anti Group Loses Penn Twp Frack Ban Case in PA Commonwealth Court

The last time we checked in (June) on a brewing frack ban in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA, a challenge to a local ordinance which allows Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley to drill and operate wells rested with a county judge. Things have since rapidly progressed. We’re guessing the local judge ruled in favor of allowing the wells to be drilled because the case was appealed to PA Commonwealth Court. Late last week the judges in Commonwealth Court issued a ruling in favor of Penn Township’s “special exception” permits awarded to Apex Energy, allowing them to drill shale wells.
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Penn Twp Frack Ban Decision Now in Hands of Local Judge

Last November we updated you on a lawsuit filed by a group of anti-fossil fuelers in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA (see Penn Twp Ninny Nannies File Lawsuit to Block Apex, H&H Wells). A group calling themselves Protect PT, backed with money and legal help from Big Green group PennFuture, filed a lawsuit to try and stop Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley (H&H) from drilling wells in the township. A Westmoreland County judge heard some testimony in the case in April (see Penn Twp Antis Try to Use PA ERA to Block Shale Drilling). The peril with Protect PT’s lawsuit is that it uses Pennsylvania’s so-called Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which liberal PA judges have, in recent years, breathed new life into. The argument is that fracking denies those who live near this temporary activity their “right” to enjoy Mom Nature, therefore it should be banished forever. Protect PT is attempting to pull off a total frack ban in the Penn Township. Although the judge heard testimony in April, more was given this week. All testimony is now done and the case rests with the judge. We expect whoever loses will appeal. Below is a recap of the case and the testimony given this week…
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Penn Twp Antis Try to Use PA ERA to Block Shale Drilling

Last November we updated you on a lawsuit filed by a group of radical anti-fossil fuelers in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA (see Penn Twp Ninny Nannies File Lawsuit to Block Apex, H&H Wells). A group calling themselves Protect PT, backed with money and legal help from Big Green group PennFuture, filed a lawsuit to try and stop Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley (H&H) from drilling wells in the township. The lawsuit finally made it to a county judge who is hearing testimony this week. One of the “expert witnesses” called by Protect PT is retired and discredited Cornell professor Tony Ingraffea, who makes a living by traveling around the country bashing fracking (see our Ingraffea stories here). The peril with this particular lawsuit is that it uses Pennsylvania’s so-called Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which liberal PA judges have, in recent years, breathed new life into. The argument is that fracking denies those who live near this temporary activity their “right” to enjoy Mom Nature, therefore it should be banished forever. That’s what Protect PT is attempting to pull off–a total frack ban in the Penn Township…
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Penn Twp Ninny Nannies File Lawsuit to Block Apex, H&H Wells

A group of ninny nannies calling themselves Protect PT (Penn Township, Westmoreland County), backed with money and legal help from Big Green group PennFuture, filed a lawsuit to try and stop Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley (H&H) from drilling wells in the township. We first alerted you to the lawsuit in October, when we were only aware of Apex being in the group’s sights (see Judge to Rule on Apex Energy Well Drilling in Westmoreland County). Since then, we’ve learned that the partial injunction blocking well drilling not only bars Apex drilling wells, but H&H as well. Gillian Graber, Executive Director of Protect PT, fibbed when she said, “We’re not saying don’t frack in Penn Township or ban fracking. We never took that position. We disagreed with where [the drilling companies] put it.” We think that’s BS–Barbara Streisand. They want all drilling stopped period. That’s the aim of the lawsuit. Below is a somewhat biased article, but useful nonetheless, with insight into the legal tactics (bastardizations) being used by Protect PT’s PennFuture lawyers, hoping to overturn settled Act 13 law. We also have a copy of a brief filed by H&H, pushing back against this latest assault on Marcellus drilling in southwestern PA…
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Judge to Rule on Apex Energy Well Drilling in Westmoreland County

As we have said for years, ever since the Pennsylvania legislature modernized and updated drilling regulations to account for shale drilling in 2012, known as Act 13, anti-fossil fuel nutters have attempted first to destroy Act 13, and later subvert it. Act 13 originally provided for uniform zoning across the state with respect to siting wells. But seven selfish townships sued and eventually won (at the PA Supreme Court) the right to retain their own zoning regulations with respect to oil and gas wells (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). Each town must have at least one zone where oil/gas wells are allowed. However, towns also have the right, via special exemptions, to allow wells in zones that don’t specifically allow wells, or where wells are otherwise prohibited. Exemptions happen on a case-by-case basis, and the town zoning or planning board must approve them. Antis object. They like it when drillers are banned from a zone, pointing to Act 13, saying the town has that right. But when the town then exercises their right to allow a well, also in Act 13, antis object and sue to prevent it. The door only swings one way for antis–to block shale wells. Such is it in Westmoreland County, in Penn Township, where the Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board approved a special exemption for Apex Energy to drill shale wells permitted by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection. Antis sued saying the Board erred in their decision, and now a judge will decide the fate of the legally-permitted wells…
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Penn Township Allows Drilling to Avoid $300M Lawsuit by Apex

This news is a bit dated, from last December, but important nonetheless. Under threat of a $300 million lawsuit, Penn Township (Westmoreland County, PA) voted to allow Apex Energy to build two Marcellus well pads, and arranged for more hearings on four more well pads. In April 2016 Penn Township blocked permits for Apex well pads (see Penn Twp Blocks Apex Energy Well Pad Request, What Next?). In May it happened again (see Penn Twp Commissioners Block Apex Shale Well Request in 3-2 Vote). In June the town began to ramp up talk of uber-restrictions on drilling, via zoning ordinances (see Penn Township Considering More Restrictions on Drilling). And in August, the town held a hearing on a proposed new Marcellus-killing ordinance (see Penn Twp Hearing Discusses Marcellus-Killing Ordinance). Meanwhile, Apex was losing $70,000 PER DAY by not drilling on land for which they held valid, legal leases, and for wells that were duly permitted by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection. So Apex launched a lawsuit to make the town pay for its harmful actions. By December, the town board was singing a different tune (about time)…
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Penn Township Considering More Restrictions on Drilling

Penn TwpIn May MDN told you that the Penn Township (in Westmoreland County, PA) zoning board voted to refuse to grant a permit to Apex Energy to build a DEP-permitted well pad in the town (see Penn Twp Commissioners Block Apex Shale Well Request in 3-2 Vote). Penn is now considering a far more restrictive ordinance than it currently has–to limit drilling. That isn’t sitting well with Huntley & Huntley–a driller that owns leases for some 23% of the land in the township. Will anti-drilling zealots keep Apex, H&H and others out, denying private property owners the right to use their property as they see fit? And how much will Penn’s taxpayers end up paying to defend a defacto ban?…
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Penn Twp Commissioners Block Apex Shale Well Request in 3-2 Vote

Apex Energy logoLast month MDN told you that the Penn Township (Westmoreland County) zoning board refused to grant a permit to Apex Energy to build a DEP-permitted well pad in the town (see Penn Twp Blocks Apex Energy Well Pad Request, What Next?). Last night the town board followed suit also voted to deny the request in a close vote: 3-2. As we previously mentioned, last year a group of anti-drillers took Apex to court to stop drilling on two wells, with the town backing them. Apex’s lawyers roared that the company was losing $70K per day by not drilling, threatening to sue. The town backed down, and Apex drilled the wells. We’re hoping for a repeat…
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Penn Twp Blocks Apex Energy Well Pad Request, What Next?

Penn TwpHow do you prove a negative? You can’t. But that’s the (illegal) demand Penn Township (near Pittsburgh) is placing on Apex Energy. Penn Township’s zoning board has denied Apex permits to begin building a well pad for an eventual nine wells–wells that are fully permitted and permissioned by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). The Penn Township ordinance “states that drillers have to prove that the drilling site won’t violate Penn Township citizens’ rights to clean air and water.” Apex provided air and water studies showing possible risks from accidental spills, etc.–along with how they will prevent such things from happening. But the zoning board was tone deaf and rejected it. So what’s next? We’ve seen this movie before. Last year a group of anti-drillers took Apex to court to stop drilling on two wells, with the town backing them. Apex’s lawyers roared that the company was losing $70K per day by not drilling, threatening to sue. The town backed down, and Apex drilled the wells…
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SWPA Town Requires Full EIS Before Drilling can Commence

court gavelA potentially troubling development in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA. Apex Energy had a permit from the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection to drill a Marcellus Shale well in Penn Twp. An anti-drilling group called Protect PT filed a lawsuit against the town for allowing the well to be drilled with first requiring a full environmental impact statement (EIS)–something that drives up the cost of drilling a well. The town caved to pressure and withdrew permission to drill, so Apex also sued the town. A deal has been worked out. Apex will have to pay for and conduct an EIS, and then they will be allowed to drill. Other towns populated with anti-drillers are catching wind of it and eyeing it as a potential way to slow or stop drilling in their towns…
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