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Drilling halted at Middlesex well under dispute

| Thursday, July 2, 2015, 12:04 a.m.

A Butler County judge issued a stay that halts work at a disputed drilling site in Middlesex.

Common Pleas Judge S. Michael Yeager said work at the Geyer well must be halted until July 26 — by which time opponents of the township's zoning ordinance must have a $250,000 bond to continue to block work during legal appeals.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Clean Air Council and four Middlesex residents appealed the township zoning board's decision to uphold changes that supervisors made to the zoning ordinance allowing the Geyer well to be drilled. The changes also allow drilling in much of the township.

Both sides say they expect a court battle to set a precedent and help define the extent to which municipalities in Pennsylvania are allowed to oversee and regulate fracking.

According to Mike Gallagher, lawyer for the zoning board, the bond is required to offset any losses that Rex Energy, the company that developed the Geyer well, incurs should the court rule in the township's favor.

“If they don't post the bond, the company can move forward after 30 days,” Gallagher said.

Alex Bomstein, a lawyer for the environmental groups and residents, said they are reviewing the judge's order.

A spokesman for Rex Energy said the company will comply with the judge's order.

Yeager scheduled a status hearing in the case for Sept. 18.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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