A Range Resources Corp. executive has released a written apology on the company’s website weeks after he told attendees of a Pennsylvania Bar Institute meeting that the company intentionally avoids siting its well pads next to wealthy neighborhoods where deep-pocketed residents could have the means to challenge development.

The apology caps a controversy that began earlier this month when Range’s Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Terry Bossert made the comment. Several attorneys for environmental organizations that closely monitor oil and gas development in the state were present at the gathering. They aired their concerns over environmental injustice in comments with a local news media organization, which prompted a rash of similar coverage by local and national outlets.

“As a newspaper editorial remarked, a Range employee offered a ‘quip’ at a recent meeting — as the person who made the remarks — let me apologize as my attempt to interject dry sarcasm was clearly a mistake,” Bossert said in the posting, entitled A Driller’s Apology — An Open Letter.

Both attorney Joanne Kilgour, director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and attorney Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, said after the bar institute meeting that they would ask the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) to review Range’s development process and check to see if the company has aimed to site its wells in lower-income areas.

Responding to Range’s apology, Grenter reportedly said there was no sarcasm in Bossert’s voice when he made the comments, a sentiment previously echoed by Grenter’s colleagues who attended the meeting. Range did not provide additional comment about the matter, letting Bossert’s apology stand on its own.

The company has more than 1 million acres prospective for the Marcellus, Utica and Upper Devonian shales in Pennsylvania, where it is one of the leading unconventional producers with a noticeable footprint in the state (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22). The company has televised commercials to reinforce its brand; it has a billboard visible off the highway promoting natural gas near its Canonsburg, PA, regional headquarters and has been active in communities statewide.

“We aim to work closely with communities to keep them informed and to mitigate inconveniences and alleviate concerns through in-person engagement; through local township processes, and through public outreach, including engagement through community advisory panels in our core operating area,” Bossert said in his letter.

Bossert formerly served as chief counsel for the state DEP. The agency’s OEJ was revived last year (see Shale Daily, Oct. 19, 2015). It was established more than a decade ago as a point of contact for Pennsylvania residents in low-income areas with a goal of increasing environmental awareness and involvement in the DEP permitting process.