Judge lifts order protecting Beaver County drillers
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A temporary restraining order that barred a Beaver County family from contesting shale gas drilling on their farm was dissolved today, according to attorneys for the family and for Chesapeake Appalachia.
The decision by U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone to remove thetemporary restraining order could push the hotly contested lease challenge into negotiations or renewed confrontation, said attorneys for the family of Robert McRoberts, of Darlington.
Chesapeake "got this TRO, and they used this document as a shield against outside influence," said James Brink, one of the attorneys for he McRoberts family and several neighboring families who have said they were tricked into signing disadvantageous leases that were later purchased by Chesapeake. "Guess what? No TRO."
"We're going forward with our operations and that would be appropriate under the lease," said Dave Fawcett, an attorney for Chesapeake.
The attorneys met with Judge Cercone behind closed doors before emerging with the news that the restraining order was lifted. Their fight over the lease started in Common Pleas Court, moved to federal court, and has also come to include a zoning challenge as a Darlington official has told Chesapeake to stop drilling because it lacks a conditional use permit.
Chesapeake "no longer [has] a court order that says their agents can come in and continue to operate on the land," said Steve Townsend, another attorney for the McRoberts family.
The McRoberts farm is officially listed as a habitat for rare Indiana bats, a fact that spurred Chesapeake to push to remove trees before spring, when bats wake up from hibernation. Now it is emerging as a test of municipal control of drilling while Act 13, which would roll back local rules, is partially stayed pending a court ruling on its constitutionality.
First Published May 31, 2012 2:53 pm