Appeal approved for Washington County man challenging DEP finding on Marcellus contamination
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Pennsylvania's environmental court has ruled that a Washington County resident may appeal a state Department of Environmental Protection determination that his private water well was not contaminated by nearby Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations.
The ruling by the Environmental Hearing Board clears the way for Loren Kiskadden of Amwell to pursue an appeal to the board that alleges the DEP's investigation of his well-contamination complaint was inaccurate and incomplete.
Sampling of the well by the DEP and Range Resources in June 2011 found dissolved methane gas, chloroform, butyl alcohol, acetone and high levels of sodium and total dissolved solids. But the DEP concluded the contaminants weren't caused by Range's well drilling or any other gas well development in the area.
The DEP said in its September 2011 response letter to Mr. Kiskadden's well contamination complaint, that his water problem was caused by "natural conditions."
The DEP argued that Mr. Kiskadden had no right to appeal that determination because it was the result of a "discretionary" investigation and report that does not direct or require drilling companies to do anything.
The DEP took that position even though its determination letter concluded by stating, "Any person aggrieved by this action may appeal ... to the Environmental Hearing Board."
The EHB ruling dated May 16 and written by the Board's Chief Judge and Chairman Thomas Renwand rejected the state agency's position and said the state Oil and Gas Act requires the DEP to investigate water pollution or diminution claims.
Mr. Renwand's opinion said the DEP's determination about the contamination of the well "... clearly and adversely affected Mr. Kiskadden's property rights. As such, it is an action of the Department and is, thus, appealable to the Environmental Hearing Board."
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday declined to comment on what he said was a pending legal matter. Range Resources did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
First Published May 22, 2012 12:47 am