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Frivolous Lawsuits Make Good Fences in Cecil Township

"It has become conspicuously fashionable as of late for energy companies to sue Cecil Township on what can be described as shaky grounds at best," state Rep. Jesse White said.

Not only do I represent as part of my legislative district, but I’ve also lived here most of my life, so it’s fairly easy to stay informed about what’s happening around town.

Like most people, I take pride in my hometown, and in Cecil’s case, that pride is well-earned, with documented evidence. Last year, —certainly an accolade worthy of pride.

But a lot can happen in a year, and in Cecil’s case, a lot has.

The township passed several ordinances over the past few years to deal with the impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling activity. To be crystal clear, the township never attempted to ban drilling activity, just provide for some reasonable assurances for the residents. It was proactive and addressed issues such as compressor stations and seismic testing requirements, which was totally within its rights.

When the Legislature passed Act 13 earlier this year, many of Cecil’s ordinances appeared to be heading for the scrap heap as the state pre-empted most of the municipality’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations. ; in fact, Cecil’s solicitor did the legal work at no charge to Cecil taxpayers.

injunction that delayed the implementation of Act 13 while the court heard the case. A driving force behind the injunction was the insistence of

Coupled with so many Marcellus-related businesses headquartered in Southpointe, there can be no doubt Cecil Township is at the very heart of the intense debate over the proper role of local government in natural gas development.

So even though Act 13 isn’t law yet and some of the ordinances (such as the requirements on seismic testing) wouldn’t be invalidated under Act 13 anyhow, it has become conspicuously fashionable as of late for energy companies to sue Cecil Township on what can be described as shaky grounds at best.

In the past week, MarkWest and Dawson Geophysical have each sued Cecil in separate lawsuits. claims Cecil is preventing them building a compressor station which they would be permitted to build under Act 13, which would be reasonable if there wasn’t a clear order delaying the implementation of Act 13 for at least another month.

How can Cecil violate a law that isn’t in effect yet?

Dawson Geophysical, which is conducting seismic testing in Cecil Township, sued because they were suffering “irreparable harm” one day after they applied for a permit to use township roads for their testing. is a true head-scratcher, because Cecil never denied their request; the township didn’t have time to act on it one way or another before the 71-page lawsuit was filed.

And although Dawson’s lawyers had time to draft the lengthy complaint, Dawson’s employees couldn’t be bothered to read the ordinance requiring 150 foot setbacks for seismic testing and notification of the township before commencing; as a result, residents suffered property damage from the ‘thumper’ trucks and lots of unnecessary confusion.

As a lawyer myself with more than a little experience with the tactics of the natural gas industry, I’m going to throw out a crazy theory here. You think maybe all these companies are filing these frivolous lawsuits against Cecil Township so they can then point to all of the litigation as false evidence that Cecil is doing something worthy of being sued?

I do.

Everything about this looks like a put-up job designed to imply Cecil is costing taxpayers by basically inviting these lawsuits.

Ironically, public relations hacks for the natural gas industry have no problem discrediting municipal lawyers (especially in Cecil Township) whenever they want a cheap-shot quote, but somehow using high-priced law firms is perfectly fine when it suits their needs. Defending these frivolous suits will cost Cecil taxpayers money; Cecil’s own lawyer did the Act 13 challenge free of charge. As a Cecil Township resident and taxpayer, I don’t need a paid industry spokesman to tell me which side is likely looking out for my neighbors and me.

We hear lots about ‘wanting to be good neighbors.’ I don’t know how neighborhoods work in Texas or Colorado, but here’s how they work in Pennsylvania: Good neighbors respect one another. Good neighbors obey the law. Good neighbors walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Good neighbors unite a community, not divide it.

So to the companies using these frivolous lawsuits to paint a negative picture and create division in this community we’ve worked so hard to build, either knock it off, or don’t be surprised when Cecil Township has a lot more fences than it used to.

Derek Andersen July 11, 2012 at 10:23 AM
If Dawson is causing property damage then those home owners need to go out and sue Dawson. This is huge news that no one else is even talking about. All we ever hear are the claims that seismic is harmless. Is it possible for the home owners to file a class action suit? Do you know how many people have been harmed so far?
Mike Melnyk July 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Yet more evidence that the Oil and Gas industry and their hangers-on will stop at nothing to get their way. The recent "midnight" legislation sneaking through drilling exemptions for Bucks and Montgomery counties is clear how hollow the state Republicans' rhetoric about how safe drilling currently is.
DBR July 11, 2012 at 03:00 PM
It baffles me that Range tries to suggest in the media that municipalities shouldn't be spending money on lawyers. Yet, in a blink they and MarkWest and now Dawson have initiated how many lawsuits against Cecil and Mt. Pleasant for doing nothing more than what is their legal obligation--to protect citizens. The industry has literally forced municipalities to spend money on legal fees or simply be crushed by the industry's sheer might. Other municipalities should take note. This type of legal bullying by the industry is coming to your community next (unless you happen to live in the magical kingdoms of Bucks and Montgomery Counties which have been mysteriously exempted under the dark of night from oil and gas activity
Andy July 11, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Jessie I appreciate that you represent the residents of the community over the big business interests. I am glad that the industry is creating jobs and tax dollars for the community. However, we need more representatives like you who insure they do it in accordance with some reasonable assurances for the residents and the environment.
Nancy Neal July 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I used to wonder where the profiteering elites of the polluting corporations and the pandering politicians who do their bidding in destroying our environment planned to live out their lives and raise their children and grandchildren. Did they have some magic technology that would create a bubble of safe air and clean water around some island? Step one evidently has been turning two high-income Pennsylvania counties (Bucks & Montgomery) into the equivalent of gated communities.
Bill Henry July 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I hope that Bucks & Montgomery aren't getting any of the marcellus tax money. Republican: Do as I say not as I do.
DJ July 19, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I am a Republican who did not vote for Jessie, but I have come to admire his diligence and, frankly, his courage on this issue. Thank you for fighting for the rights of us Cecil Township residents. The frivolous lawsuits should bear consequences... for those filing them.
Me July 20, 2012 at 06:06 AM
What property did Dawson damage? I know home owner who agreed to seismic testing and had no problems with Dawson.Dawson also demonstrated seismic testing for Cecil Twp supervisor and anyone who wanted to attend.Seismic testing did not cause damage to the state roads..
cecil resident July 21, 2012 at 04:20 PM
If you had attended some of the township meetings you would have known that Dawson invited people to a demo of the thumper trucks. Some of the supervisor and other township officals attended this demo and golf balls on tees was one of the example I heard was used and wasn't affected by the thumping until they were moved within a few feet of the trucks then it was very little, no earthquakes , no windows vibrating, no thinks falling off shelves etc.Personally I thought the township and Dawson should have advertised this demo more so people with questions and fears could have had some answers. I knew a person who rode a motorcycle past the trucks when they where testing on route 980 and couldn't feel a thing. But if you have a thing against drilling in Cecil Township you are going to have issues I guess no matter what the test showed. Sueing is not the only answer in this country to issues all that does is make lawyers rich. If a homeowner has a issue try talking to Dawson and let them correct the issue before you call a lawyer. It seems some people have their lawyers on speed dial we have become a nation of sue, sue, sue.
cecil resident July 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I also had some questions concerning this so I did some research and found some answers.There is an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer By Sandy Bavers on July 9, 2012 that does a very good job explaining this issue. This involves a lot more then the State of Pa. and the Marcellous shale which has been researched, this also involves the state of New Jersey and the Delaware Basin that is being researched at the present time.
cecil resident July 21, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Regulations are good but you can also over regulate and destroy the right of other citizens in the township.
cecil resident July 21, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I have your concerns also I have children and grandchildren but not every Industry destroys the land and air. I have grown up and lived in Cecil township all my life and at one time their was oil and gas wells all over this area.The grass is still green ,trees are growing ( except where the many housing plans are destroying), people look normal and 60 years ago this industry had a lot less regulations and rules to following. If we don't use all our own natural resources what do you suggest we use for our electric, heat, fuel (from our country not a foreign country who want to destroy us). The usual answer I sometimes hear is solar and wind How is that working does brankrupt come to mind?

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