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Friday, September 6, 2013

Martin Whiteman v. Chesapeake Appalachia

From Fracksylginny, south of here:


    The Whitemans live on and farm their 101 acres, primarily raising sheep and, relatedly, using part of the land to produce hay for the sheep. Conversely, Chesapeake operates three natural gas wells on approximately ten acres of the Whitemans' property that was formerly used for hay production. The Whitemans can no longer produce hay on those ten acres because Chesapeake's well operations and permanent drill waste disposal on the surface have rendered that portion of the Whitemans' property unusable for any suitable purpose.

    For each of their gas wells located on the Whitemans' surface property, Chesapeake obtained valid well work and pit waste discharge permits from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). As part of the permitting process, Chesapeake gave the Whitemans notice of Chesapeake's intent to drill and dispose of drill waste in on-site waste pits. Chesapeake disposed of the drill cuttings in accord with the waste disposal method listed on their well work and pit waste discharge permit applications, namely by depositing the drill cuttings into open pits located near the wellheads on the Whitemans' surface property.
    The Appeals  Court indicates that the drill cuttings consist of earth, rock, and other debris necessarily removed from the ground when the drill bores the well, as well as drilling mud ranging from water-based fluid mixed with minerals to oil-based fluid with a composition similar to diesel fuel to synthetic oil-based fluid with a composition similar to food-grade mineral oil.
    In their complaint, the Whitemans asked for an injunction and damages based on claims arising from the drilling and operation by Chesapeake of three natural gas wells on surface property owned by the Whitemans. The complaint alleged claims under West Virginia common law only, namely nuisance, trespass, negligence, strict liability, recklessness or gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.