New Castle News

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May 16, 2014

Couple seeks to intervene in ‘pool’ action

NEW CASTLE — Two residents outside a proposed natural gas “pool” want to join those opposing an application for forced pooling.

Gerard L. and Claudia A. Nogee of 2374 Marr Road, Pulaski, filed the petition to intervene Monday with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They want to join parties opposing Hilcorp Energy Co.’s request for well spacing units in areas of Pulaski Township, Lawrence County, and Shenango Township, Mercer County. If Hilcorp’s request is approved, landowners in the units who have not signed gas drilling leases could be forced to do so.

The Nogees’ application was filed on the last day that any new parties could join the action. It cites the state constitution’s guarantee of the right of “... acquiring, possessing and protecting property...” as the basis for their petition.

The Nogees state that they live adjacent to and surrounded by properties already being drilled or leased to Hilcorp Energy Co. and fear that if Hilcorp’s application is granted, their land may eventually be forced into a pool.

Gerard Nogee’s brother-in-law, Timothy Higgins of Ridgeville, S.C., who is serving as spokesman for the two, said Gerard Nogee doesn’t want to lease the land for drilling and “he has the right not to.

“He is a green farmer ... He is a retired steelworker who farms and doesn’t want his life interrupted, changed or taken from him by a bureaucracy.”

Higgins said the farm also has been entered into a land conservation program.

The petition states the Nogees will try to introduce evidence to demonstrate that the identified accumulation of gas is not a “pool” within the meaning of the 1961 Oil and Gas Conservation Law, which is the basis of Hilcorp’s application; that the law’s purpose of protecting correlative rights “is inapplicable in instances of horizontal drilling for natural gas in shale formations;” and that if forced pooling is allowed, it will set a precedent in the township and possibly other areas of Pennsylvania.

Higgins said the Nogees are not represented by a lawyer and he is trying to find legal representation for them.

Initially, the only parties to the application were Hilcorp and the DEP. Two couples and one individual whose properties are contained in the proposed “pool” already have intervened in the action, which has been postponed to give their attorney time to prepare a case. No new hearing date has been set.

Those landowners’ lawyer, Omar K. Abuhejleh of Pittsburgh, also has asked Commonwealth Court for injunctions against such use of the Oil and Gas Conservation Law, claiming forced pooling violates the state constitution.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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