Range not responsible for contamination Court sides with state agency ruling about Amwell Twp. man’s drinking water

A view of Range Resources’ Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township

A Commonwealth Court panel Monday affirmed a state agency’s ruling that an Amwell Township man failed to prove Range Resources contaminated his drinking water.

The procedural decision means the Commonwealth Court will hear the appeal of Loren Kiskadden, who claims his well water was contaminated by leaks at Range Resources’ Yeager impoundment.

Commonwealth Court Senior Judge J. Wesley Oler Jr. ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection and Range to each file appellate briefs within 30 days. No date has been set for the hearing.

Kiskadden’s attorneys, John and Kendra Smith, said Tuesday they are considering filing an application for reconsideration.

“While the appeal will go forward and Range and the DEP were ordered by the Court to file briefs, we are contemplating making an application for reconsideration, as it is unfortunate that the court found that a trial and a decision made without all of the available evidence on the use of previously undisclosed ‘chemical frac tracers’ was somehow not problematic to my client’s case,” said John Smith.

In June, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board dismissed an appeal filed by Kiskadden after EHB Chief and Chairman Thomas W. Renwand determined Kiskadden “failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that his water well was impacted by gas drilling operations conducted by Range Resources.”

The EHB’s decision reinforced a determination by the DEP in September 2011 that Range’s operations did not contaminate Kiskadden’s well, which is located less than a mile from the Yeager well pad and wastewater impoundment.

In October, Kiskadden’s attorneys filed a motion in Commonwealth Court arguing the gas company failed to reveal the use of radioactive tracers, which chart and analyze the reach of hydraulic fracturing, and letters from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry they said indicated Kiskadden’s water well was contaminated by chemicals found at the drill site.

The Smiths asked the Commonwealth Court to vacate the hearing board decision denying their client’s contamination claim and send the case back to the board for a new hearing.

However, Oler, writing for the court order issued Monday, said Kiskadden did not prove the information he wanted to introduce was new. He also failed to prove the use of tracers and the letters rebutted the EHB’s finding there was no groundwater connection between Kiskadden’s contaminated well and Range’s operation.

The court “cannot conclude that the Board would most likely reverse its determination on remand if it credited petitioner’s additional evidence,” he wrote.

“We appreciate the Commonwealth Court’s order that relies on the thorough analysis of the Environmental Hearing Board, which concluded that the DEP’s determination was correct that Range’s activities did not cause, contribute or impact Mr. Kiskadden’s water supply,” said Matt Pitzarella, Range Resources Director of Corportate Communications and Public Affairs. “The Commonwealth Court’s ruling along with the Environmental Hearing Board’s prior ruling and studies like the U.S. EPA’s multi-year study of drinking water sources, should provide the public with confidence that natural gas development can and is being done safely and that regulatory agencies are diligently overseeing the process.”

Range contends the well contamination was caused by natural contaminants, including runoff from a junkyard.

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