Judge allows Ohio fracking lawsuit to proceed

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A couple who sued to try to stop shale
gas drilling around a state-owned lake in eastern Ohio won an early
victory this week as a judge ruled their lawsuit can proceed.
The
Franklin County judge ruled that the Guernsey County couple has legal
standing to try to stop hydraulic fracturing — known as fracking —
around and beneath Seneca Lake, about 80 miles east of Columbus.
Leatra
Harper and Steven Janstro sued in October after the Muskingum Watershed
Conservancy District approved a $40.3 million lease with a
Colorado-based drilling company for underground mineral rights to 6,400
acres, including the lake, according to The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1hDfmiZ ).
Common
Pleas Judge Tim Horton ruled on Monday that the plaintiffs have
established that they "have suffered or are threatened with direct and
concrete injury" to their health, to the environment where their
property lies and to the property’s value.
The decision allows the
lawsuit to proceed against the conservancy district, the Ohio
Department of Natural Resources and the drilling company, Antero
Resources. The couple ultimately wants the court to find that the
watershed district and the state acted improperly in approving the
project.
The judge rejected the defendants’ argument that the
couple didn’t have legal standing because their "alleged injuries are
speculative and hypothetical."
The lease does not permit wells to
be drilled on district-owned land, but it allows Antero Resources to
drill beneath the lake and on district land from wells outside the
district. District spokesman Darrin Lautenschleger said three wells
"have gone under the property to begin production."
The drilling operations will continue despite the litigation, he said.
A
spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources, which
granted the drilling permits for the project, said the department will
not comment on ongoing litigation.
More than 660 fracking wells have been drilled in Ohio since 2010.
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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
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