New Castle News

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April 26, 2014

Holdout landowners retain Pittsburgh attorney; ask hearings be postponed

NEW CASTLE — A Pittsburgh attorney is asking that next month’s hearings on forced pooling be postponed.

Atty. Omar Abuhejleh also filed a motion with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Friday allowing the affected landowners to formally intervene in the case filed by Hilcorp Energy Co.

 Abuhejleh, who has been retained by some of these holdout landowners, said he has asked for a month’s delay to prepare a case. The hearings are currently scheduled for May 7 and 8.

If granted, the motion would give the landowners status as parties to the lawsuit.  Currently, only DEP and Hilcorp Energy Corp. have this status in the case. The holdout landowners have no legal standing although the application seeks to force them to allow gas drilling on their land.

Abuhejleh said rules require him to first make an informal request for the delay and if refused, to then file formally.

According to Abuhejleh’s motion, the property owners’ interests are not being represented by DEP because the agency’s filings “are devoid of any documents or statements that would establish Hilcorp’s attempt to avail itself of the Oil and Gas Conservation Law is improper and unfounded...”

If permitted to intervene, he said, the property owners will introduce evidence of the following claims:

 •That the identified accumulation of gas is not a “pool” as defined by the law;

•That Hilcorp’s application does not include the latitude and longitude coordinates for each well drilled “to the pool sought to be spaced”;

•That Hilcorp’s application fails to identify “each well drilled to the pool”;

•That Hilcorp has not recommended spacing units based on “the maximum area which may be drained efficiently and economically by one well;”

•And that the Oil and Gas Conservation Law’s purpose of “protecting correlative rights” is not applicable “in instances of horizontal drilling for natural gas in shale formations.”

Abuhejleh said he bases his clients’ right to intervene on Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution which states in part that residents have the right “...of acquiring, possessing and protecting property...”

He is representing Martin and Suzanne Matteo, Robert and Carol Valentine and Steve Emery.

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