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Robinson, Washington County, denies request to drill gas wells

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Officials in Robinson in Washington County denied permits for two Range Resources Corp. gas well sites Monday night amid mounting legal pressure and lawsuits from the company.

“They just didn't comply with our laws,” Supervisors Chairman Brian Coppola said after the meeting.

Range has been trying to get permission to drill on two sites since November and has filed a lawsuit claiming the township supervisors illegally delayed a decision.

The Texas-based driller asked a state judge on Monday for an immediate decision in the case, claiming several state laws supersede the municipal laws the township has asked Range Resources to follow.

“It's been almost a half of a year, and the township still hasn't made progress on granting our permits just as dozens of neighboring towns have done,” Range's Cecil-based spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in an email. “We're more than willing to make changes to our operations and to continue to meet with residents to address their specific concerns as part of our daily work.”

Township officials said that they are trying to balance differing interests and that Range has failed to provide them with consistent and required information. After a 53-minute, closed-door session to discuss the legal complaints, supervisors opened up public comment to a crowd of about 60 in the municipal garage.

“It looks as though you're looking for every opportunity to throw up a roadblock,” Tim Jones, 63, said in challenging the supervisors.

“Range is playing a game here,” said Neal Matchett, 65, in supporting the supervisors' position. “It's incumbent upon them to come back and answer these questions.”

Jones and Matchett said they've been told their land would be part of one of the drilling units in question.

Range Resources controls oil and gas rights on a 168-acre tract off Midway Candor Road and an 84-acre tract on Valley View Road, according to its legal filings. It wants to develop both properties.

Range's lawsuit in state appeals court claimed that township officials disregarded their own laws to illegally drag out permit hearings.

Coppola claimed the company has failed to answer questions about plans and given inconsistent details, including how many wells it would drill.

The supervisors will hold a meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday to explain their decision. Range is welcome to refile a permit request and could receive approval within a few months if it meets rules, Coppola said.

Tim Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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