New Castle News

Local News

June 12, 2014

Forced Pooling Fight: Pulaski Township couple wait for ruling

NEW CASTLE — Claudia and Gerard Nogee didn’t have to get involved in the fight over forced pooling.

The couple lives on the 70-acre family homestead on Marr Road in Pulaski Township that Gerard Nogee’s parents, Frank and Margaret, bought in 1948.

The 63-year-old worked in a Campbell, Ohio, steel mill until he retired but has always had cattle and farmed some corn, hay and oats.

His wife, 62, still works in the kitchen at Villa Maria.

Many of their neighbors have signed gas and oil leases. But not the Nogees.

“All the gas companies give you is a tank of water and a gag order when they pollute your well,” Claudia Nogee remarked. And as the wells move closer to their home, the couple is growing more concerned.

They are trying to join a landmark case in which Texas oil and gas driller Hilcorp Energy Co. is trying to force holdout landowners to sign leases in an effort to impose “forced pooling.”

The Nogees are not included in the “pool” in question, so nobody is forcing them to do anything.

But the suit before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hit a nerve.

Gerard Nogee said if Hilcorp wins the right for forced pooling, any holdouts will be affected.

“We are just ordinary people,” Claudia Nogee said. “We don’t have resources or a team of lawyers.”

But guarding mineral rights is a family tradition. Gerard Nogee said his parents had passed up several other farms before buying the one on Marr Road because they wanted to own the mineral rights.

So last month, the Nogees filed a petition with the DEP asking to join the suit along with the other holdout landowners.

They have been attending informational meetings on fracking and are worried about their water, and especially their cattle. They are afraid that wells planned for construction nearby will impact the water draining onto their pasture.

And Gerard Nogee said if the water is polluted, “that’s the end of it.”

He said a water buffalo could provide household needs but not enough for cattle.

They just got a letter informing them their water will be tested again. Their water has been tested before because of the area drilling.

Fracking “looks good on paper,” Claudia Nogee said, adding “I don’t think people realized what the impact would be on the community and the environment.”

The Nogees believe the drillers are saturating the township “to get every bit of gas that’s under there — then they will leave,” he said.

“And that stuff is underground for eternity. We will be living on top of a toxic waste dump for generations to come.”

Their brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Rose Higgins from South Carolina, are helping them.

“Tim’s a great speaker. He’s in politics and worked in water treatment. He knows about chemicals and air pollution,” Claudia Nogee said.

“We don’t even know how to get on a computer,” she added.

Hilcorp is opposing the couple’s petition to intervene and the DEP has not yet ruled on it. So the Nogees wait to see if they will be allowed to join the fight.

But whatever happens, they will be here.

Where would we run?” Claudia Nogee asked. “This is our home.”

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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