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Justices hear appeal arguments in Marcellus shale case

Staff Report

PARKERSBURG — The West Virginia Supreme Court Tuesday heard arguments in an appeal of a lower court decision by residents who claimed Marcellus shale drilling has denied them the enjoyment of their property.

Deborah G. Andrews, Rodney and Katherine Ashcraft, Gregg D. McWilliams, Mary Mikowski and Robert and Loretta Siders filed a complaint in October 2013 alleging nuisances such as noise and odors against Antero Resources Corp. and Hall Drilling.

The claim was transferred from Ohio County Circuit Court to the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel in November 2014, which eventually ruled in favor of the defendants in October 2016.

At issue is horizontal well drilling and hydro-fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, which has caused the industrialization of rural West Virginia and noise, truck traffic, odors, dust contamination, light pollution and vibrations, among other things, the petitioners brief to the Supreme Court said.

Antero and Hall said the Mass Litigation Panel did not abuse its discretion by holding that petitioners failed to show they are entitled to relief and that the panel applied the correct legal standards concerning mineral owners’ and surface owners’ rights under West Virginia law.

“From what began as a toxic contamination case, petitioners now only claim annoyance, discomfort and inconvenience caused by noise, traffic on public roads, odors, dust, lights, and vibrations (collectively, ‘conditions’) allegedly resulting from horizontal drilling activities located in the vicinity of petitioners’ surface estates,” the Antero brief said.

Two friends of the court briefs were filed in support of Antero and Hall from the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Business and Industry Council, the West Virginia Coal Association, the Contractors Association of West Virginia, West Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and the West Virginia Poultry Association.

“The issues petitioners seek to appeal would significantly impact the well-settled theories of property law and the sustainability of the Marcellus shale industry in West Virginia,” the chamber brief said. “Because such issues necessarily implicate West Virginia’s economic viability overall, including direct and indirect impacts on other industries…all have significant interests in the issues raised by the petitioners in this appeal.”

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