Judge says Washington County drilling lawsuit is public record
A judge in Washington County said the public has the right to see a sealed settlement between gas drilling companies and a family that claimed the companies' operations damaged their health.
Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca ruled on Wednesday that openness in the court system is more important than the interests of the companies. The settlement paid out $750,000, including more than $150,000 in legal fees.
Stephanie and Chris Hallowich initiated a case against Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners in 2010.
The sides settled their dispute in July 2011, but the companies asked that the records be sealed, and another judge agreed.
Media organizations challenged that decision, and O'Dell-Seneca ruled in their favor.
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in a statement, “Range does not have concerns with the judge's decision, which we greatly respect, to make the court file public. This information combined with the vast public data accessible through the DEP's extensive investigations should provide the public with even greater clarity that shale gas is being developed safely and responsibly.”
Trib Total Media staffwriter Timothy Puko contributed to this story.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.