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Range Resources looks to settle Mt. Pleasant Township's legal claims

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Range Resources Corp. has offered to close several water storage pits and replace some with above-ground tanks to end a dispute with one of its core drilling communities in Washington County.

The gas drilling company wants a settlement to end legal claims from Mt. Pleasant Township that it violated land-use rules by continuing to use wastewater and freshwater pits there more than two years since it moved its drill rigs away.

Township officials will hold a public meeting on Saturday morning to get feedback on the deal and question company officials about how the above-ground tanks would work.

“I think it's a genuine offer,” said Mary Ann Stevenson, township manager. “I was shocked. We had discussed in the past about ‘Hey, how about take that (wastewater) impoundment out of there.' And the answer was always ‘No,' they needed it.”

Range uses more “centralized impoundments” — in-ground pits that hold more than 10 million gallons of shale drilling wastewater before it can be recycled — than any other shale driller in the state.

Residents have complained about the pits and sued the company over nuisance and health concerns from truck traffic, vapors and leaks. The company has denied many of those claims and said the impounds reduce risks regionally by providing efficient, centralized holding ponds for wells as far as 50 miles away.

Company officials are offering to close the Carter impoundment between Walnut and Fort Cherry roads, saying it's been the source of most of the complaints in Mt. Pleasant.

They want the township to sign off on replacing several much smaller pits with above-ground tanks, including the right to hold more water at one of the sites, officials said.

“Their concern was (primarily) with the Carter, and it didn't sound like that was going to go away anytime soon with the township. So we decided, let's look for an alternative solution,” said Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella at the Texas company's Cecil offices. “All of the comments we heard went into this proposal.”

Pitzarella did not have details on the size of the tanks or the cost of the work immediately available, he said. The deal would give it enough capacity to restart drilling in the township as it has planned, he added. Company officials previously said they plan to drill 10 to 20 wells there over several years, starting as soon as this fall.

Seven families near the pits had hired a Cranberry attorney to help the township press its land-use claims against Range and another attorney to press health claims regarding the Carter pit. They could not be reached for response.

Saturday's special meeting will be at 9 a.m. in the Township Community Center in Hickory. The township has a third day of testimony in the land-use case scheduled for Oct. 8.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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