We haven't covered much of Fort Worth-based Range Resources' dispute (here's a quick backgrounder) with the Hallowich family in Hickory, Pa., but the parties' settlement has become a hot topic in the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere. The latest development came Monday, when the settlement, signed in 2011, was made public by a Pennsylvania state court. What was already known was that Range and the other companies involved in the case, Williams Field Services and MarkWest Energy Partners, paid the Hallowiches $750,000 to relocate from their 10-acre property and new home. What the settlement shows is that:
- while the operators agreed to pay for medical evaluations of Christopher and Stephanie Hallowich and their two children, the companies "do not believe the Hallowichs have been exposed to any environmental safety or health risks" from natural gas operations near their land. But neither do the Hallowiches "release any right to assert a claim against the Operators" in the future for personal injuries related to the operations.
- The parties agreed to arbitration to settle any such future claims.
- Both sides agreed not to disparage the other publicly. As it applies to the Hallowich family, that includes refraining from comments on hydraulic fracturing, natural gas drilling, the Marcellus Shale and related topics by all forms of communication, including Facebook and other social media. The company says that order does not apply to the Hallowich children, both minors, but that issue has drawn attention.
- The Hallowiches can't join litigation against the operators by other parties, unless subpoenaed or compelled by law.
- The Hallowich family agreed not to relocate within two miles of an existing facility operated by Range and the others, or within 1,000 feet of property leased by them. The family retained the mineral rights to the property, which is now owned by the operators.
In a prepared statement, Range said it is “pleased that the public now has access to this information and can clearly see that natural gas operations had absolutely no environmental, health or safety impacts. They did have issues associated with the unique proximity of their home and early industry activity, which cannot be duplicated again due to new setback regulations that the industry supported.”
A copy of the settlement is here: Download Hallowich settlement. A Pennsylvania newspaper's report on the settlement's release is here. A link to previous coverage of the case and court documents prepared by StateImpact Pennsylvania is here.
-- Jim Fuquay