MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By David Beard
The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.
July 28--A Wetzel County couple have settled a lawsuit with Chesapeake Appalachia regarding a Marcellus well pad on their property.
Larry and Jana Rine filed suit in 2010, alleging that Chesapeake permanently damaged and polluted a portion of their Silver Hill property by burying hazardous Marcellus gas well drilling waste on their land.
They settled earlier this month, according to documents from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Upon request of all parties, District Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. dismissed the case "with prejudice," meaning the Rines can't re-file their suit.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Documents say the Rines bought the property in 2007. Chesapeake acquired a lease to the mineral rights -- the Rines don't own those rights. Chesapeake drilled three Marcellus gas wells on the pad.
Chesapeake constructed a pit on the site -- plaintiffs called it a waste pond, Chesapeake called it a drill cuttings pit. Sometime in early or mid-2010, Chesapeake began new work at the site, dug a hole, ruptured the ground near the pit and tore the pond liner, allowing "an unknown waste liquid" to run over bare ground and into the new hole, thus admitting waste on unprotected soil.
The Rines alleged that the waste spread through their "soil, surface water and groundwater through unchecked migration," rendering the former farmland no longer suitable for hay production or a planned home site.
Asked about the settlement, defense attorney John Meadows said there is a confidentiality agreement in place and referred questions to Chesapeake.
Chesapeake supplied this statement: "The Rines and Chesapeake have reached an amicable settlement of their disputes. Slip repair and reclamation are continuing on the Rine property. The parties contemplate that the well pad will be satisfactorily reclaimed by the end of construction. The settlement resolves all claims asserted by the Rines, including those for contamination."
Plaintiffs' attorney Isak Howell said the statement reflects the wording all parties agreed upon and any statements beyond that would be a violation of the agreement.