A Washington County judge denied Range Resources permission to test the air, soil and homes of three Amwell Township families who claim to suffer health problems as a result of drilling activity and an impoundment at the Yeager well site on McAdams Road.
President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca denied the motion Tuesday, stating she refused to let “the individuals’ homes be invaded for some sort of fishing expedition.”
Bruce Rende, who represents Range Resources, requested the testing in response to “ongoing complaints” from the plaintiffs.
The case dates back to 2012, when homeowners Stacey Haney and her two children, Beth and John Voyles and their daughter, and Loren and Grace Kiskadden filed a lawsuit against Range Resources and 16 other companies. The families, who live below the drilling site, claim they suffer a multitude of health problems, including neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms consistent with toxic exposure.
Their attorney, Kendra Smith, argued the requested testing was premature because the chemicals used at the site were not disclosed. Range Resources was ordered to provide a list of chemicals, including proprietary substances, from its manufacturers. A court order in November required Range Resources’ suppliers – about 40 contractors and subcontractors – to provide that list. According to O’Dell Seneca, the suppliers could not or would not comply.
In June, O’Dell Seneca ruled that Range Resources was in the best position to obtain that list. She said the company still has not complied.
Range Resources also failed to provide a number of results from testing completed July 23 at the Yeager site, as well as results from prior testing done at the site in years past. Rende said in court that results are not available .
O’Dell Seneca said once Range Resources provides the list of the chemicals, she’ll attempt to “work with them.”
“I keep hearing over and over again, ‘What’s the big deal?’” she said. “We need to know what to look for. You still haven’t complied with my order or the Department of Environmental Protection. As soon as I have that, I’ll seriously consider the inspection.”
Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources, said the chemicals used in the fracking process have been disclosed. He said O’Dell Seneca’s order is “impossible to comply” with.
“Every constituent used in the fracturing process has been disclosed, as well as an exhaustive list for all substances used on the surface at the location. Some constituents – used not in the fracturing fluid but in the drilling operations such as fuel and motor fluids for instance – cannot be identified at the parts per billion levels by Range without information from the manufacturers,” Pitzarella said in an email. “It’s unfortunate that the court refused to allow additional testing that we are confident would further demonstrate that there have been no impacts from oil and gas activity, which is consistent with repeated and exhaustive investigations conducted by state regulators.”
Pitzarella said Range Resources is reviewing its options in regard to the order. In July, Range Resources was cited for a leak at the Yeager impoundment. Pitzarella said Range Resources is still waiting for approval from the DEP to close the impoundment after notifying the agency in March of its intention to close it. A closure date has not yet been set.