Elected officials in Cecil Township, PA, voted unanimously on Monday to adopt changes to two of its ordinances governing Marcellus Shale development but are still waiting to hear if Range Resources Corp. will drop a lawsuit it filed against them in October over the changes.
Township Manager Donald Gennuso told NGI's Shale Daily that the township solicitor and five members of the Board of Supervisors didn't agree with Range's assertion that Cecil Township violated the state's Municipal Planning Code and the Second Class Township Code by failing to advertise a public hearing on the ordinance changes.
"We felt that we did everything properly," Gennuso said Wednesday. "But in the interest of trying to save some cash and some litigation, the board decided to advertise it and go through the entire process again."
The first change amends the township's Unified Development Ordinance by classifying oil and gas development as a conditional use that can only be performed in designated areas. A second change amends the township zoning map to include an overlay district where oil and gas drilling can occur. The latter prohibits drilling within 500 feet of residential structures and 2,000 feet of schools.
Homeowners may authorize drilling activities and ask the Board of Supervisors to waive the overlay district requirements, but operators must still receive conditional use approval.
Gennuso said Kenneth Komorowski -- an attorney with the Pittsburgh branch of law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP who is representing Range -- was at Monday's meeting and told the supervisors that the two ordinance changes were illegal, but did not go into specifics. He also declined to say whether Range would drop its lawsuit.
"Ken would not respond to that," Gennuso said. "He just said he had to go back to his client."
Komorowski and Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Komorowski filed a notice of appeal of procedural validity against Cecil Township in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County on Oct. 11 (see Shale Daily, Oct. 19). The case, No. C-63-CV-201107400, is currently pending.
Gennusso said that despite the pending litigation, Range had some input into amending the two ordinances.
"The changes that they made were subtle language," Gennusso said. "It was just in an effort to clarify a lot of things. For example, on the 500-foot buffer from protected structures, Range wanted to know what portion of and oil and gas drilling operations had to be away from them."
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Range spudded 14 wells in Washington County in October, the most by any company that month (see Shale Daily, Nov. 10).
Range CEO John Pinkerton told industry analysts and shareholders in October that 2012 would be "a breakout" year for the company as it ramps up production in the Marcellus (see Shale Daily, Oct. 28). He also predicted that Range's Marcellus production would total 400 MMcf/d in 4Q2011.
Range sold its assets in the Barnett Shale to Legend Production Holdings LLC and Riverstone Holdings LLS for $900 million in April so that it could focus more on the Marcellus (see Shale Daily, May 4; March 7; March 2).
Range currently holds approximately 1.05 million net acres in the Marcellus, second only to Chesapeake Energy, which holds approximately 1.75 million net acres. Rounding out the top five net acreage holders in the play are Consol Energy with 750,000, Seneca Resources with 745,000 and Chevron with 714,000.