After local residents raised questions about the health impact of fracking, Smith recused himself from the decision last month. In general “my role is very limited to advising the board to what the regulations are,” Smith said. “They overstate my role.”
Robinson, which already has cleared other Range wells, was just doing its appropriate due diligence, according to Coppola. After Range refused to answer the board’s follow-up questions, it voted down their applications on Feb. 11.
Even before that decision, Range filed a lawsuit against the town, arguing that the town had unfairly delayed approval.
In nearby Cecil Township friction between the town and company got so bad that the two sides had a public meeting in December aimed at resolving their differences.
Dating back to 2011, relations had been tense. After the town reworked a pending zoning rule to appease Range, the company sued it, contesting the legality of those changes because they were done too quickly, said Andrew Schrader, vice chairman of the board of supervisors there.
Despite the meeting in December, Range sent the board a legal notice in January that it may face another lawsuit from the company soon.
“I hoped Range would abide by the statements of December and not use lawyers and lawsuits. This is a matter of credibility,” Schrader said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Last year it countersued a Texas landowner, Steven Lipsky, who said Range’s drilling practices contaminated his water well with explosive methane. It argued in local court that Lipsky conspired to defame the company by getting his air and water tested by Alisa Rich, president of Wolf Eagle Environmental consultants, and taking that complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency and to the media.
“The object of the conspiracy was to make false and damaging accusations that Range’s operations had contaminated Lipsky’s water well,” the company said in its suit, filed in July 2011.