Cecil Township Manager Don Gennuso said Wednesday that Range Resources has tried to leverage its “sway” with a leaseholder who filed for a Public Utilities Commission review of its Marcellus Shale gas ordinance in order to secure an informal meeting with the board of supervisors.
Gennuso said the first request from Range Resources Local Government Affairs Manager Jim Cannon came in the form of a letter dated Oct. 5.
“Range Resources is evaluating the prospect of resuming the permitting of drilling operations in Cecil Township. In light of this proposal, we would like to schedule a meeting with the supervisors to outline our plans and obtain input on the areas of concern that may still exist with officials regarding our activities,” the letter read.
Despite the request for the informal meeting, Gennuso said four of five supervisors indicated that a formal meeting would be more appropriate, later stating in a letter that a public meeting would “avoid any suggestion of impropriety that rightly or wrongly often accompanies private meetings.”
The state Sunshine Law does not permit a quorum of supervisors to meet privately because action could possibly be taken without the public’s knowledge.
“The board wanted everything to be on the up and up,” the township manager said.
After several phone calls between he and Cannon, the Range employee stopped into the township manager’s office unannounced on Tuesday—a meeting that ended with Gennuso writing a letter to Range and sending carbon copies to the supervisors and two local lawmakers.
“During our phone call of Oct. 16, 2012, I expressed to you the board’s decision and desire to meet publicly with Range Resources,” the letter addressed to Cannon read. “As Range apparently was not desirous of a public meeting, you unexpectedly remarked that Range ‘held sway’ with some of its leaseholders and perhaps if the board would agree to meet privately with Range, Range could convince Alan Rank, a Range leaseholder, to drop his current lawsuit against the township filed with the Public Utilities Commission. This, of course, would allow the township to receive its impact fee allotment which is currently being held by the PUC pending the Rank appeal.”
The letter then continued: “My initial thought was the suggestion that Range had influence over Mr. Rank or the litigation filed against the township raised more questions than it answered regarding the origins and purpose of this lawsuit. The fact that Range is suggesting that the supervisors utilize the ongoing nature of the PUC lawsuit as a factor in their decision as to whether or not to meet privately with Range was not well received.”
The letter ended in part with this paragraph: “Range’s overtures to restart its relationship with Cecil Township and get off on a good foot seems inconsistent with the reference to litigation as a means to influence the actions of the board of supervisors and seems more reminiscent of the past than some new attempt to work together.”
The letter went on to say that the township looked forward to working with Range—in public.
Cannon did not immediately return a voicemail left on his cell phone Wednesday morning.
, who was copied on the township’s letter to Range, did not immediately return a cell phone message seeking comment on the matter.
But reached Wednesday morning, state , who posted the letters between Range Resources and the township on his Facebook page Tuesday, had this to say: “Let’s call this what it is—extortion, plain and simple. The township made it very clear that they want to work with Range Resources, but Range will only do so if those discussions are held in illegal meetings behind closed doors.”
The lawmaker continued: “At a time when public confidence in government is waning, I applaud the four out of the five supervisors who have the respect for both the law and the people of Cecil Township to not give in to these shady demands. If they truly are operating on the level, what does Range have to say behind closed doors that they can’t say in public?”
Editor's Note: To read both letters, please see the attached PDF files.