Gas Drillers Paid $750K Settlement to Pennsylvania Family

By KEVIN BEGOS | March 25, 2013

Newly released court documents show gas drilling company Range Resources and other defendants paid $750,000 to settle claims that the activity ruined a western Pennsylvania family’s property.

Stephanie and Chris Hallowich had sued the companies claiming drilling and other activity on a neighboring property had made their home in Hickory, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, virtually unsellable.

The documents released Wednesday also show the Hallowichs agreed there was no medical evidence that drilling harmed their health or their children’s health. The family had also previously acknowledged that it was receiving royalty payments from hydraulic fracturing on the property. It’s not clear from the settlement if that’s still the case.

Peter Villari, the Hallowichs’ attorney, said he hasn’t finished reviewing the new court ruling to determine if his clients can now speak to the media.

Under the settlement the Hallowichs received $594,820 and their lawyers got $150,000, plus $5179 for costs. The other companies involved in the case were Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Mid-Stream and Mark West Energy Partners. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection wasn’t part of the settlement, though it was named in some court papers.

Range also now owns the 10-acre property under the settlement.

The Hallowichs also signed a document saying their children “are healthy and have no symptoms that may allegedly be related” to the natural gas activity, but both sides agreed to an arbitration process for any future health claims.

The dispute began in 2009. Range was drilling on an adjacent property and related activity continued as natural gas processing and pipeline facilities were built.

The case was settled in July 2011, but the companies asked that the records be sealed and a judge agreed. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter challenged that decision and the documents were released when another judge ruled in their favor.

A spokesman for Ft. Worth, Texas-based Range Resources said the company doesn’t object to the judge’s decision.

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