Range Resources spokesman Jim Cannon, flanked by three colleagues, told Cecil Township Board of Supervisors during a more than hour-long work session Thursday that “not so long ago” the Southpointe-based company and the municipality seemed to have a good working relationship.
“Somewhere along the lines, things got haywire,” Cannon told the board, who all sat together at a table in front of a packed crowd in the township meeting room, where company officials later confirmed that the lack of drilling in the township had more to do with economics than any difficulties working with municipal officials.
While “obvious issues” such as the township’s conditional-use ordinance and the outcome of the Act 13 challenge were still on the table, that’s not what the company wanted to discuss, Cannon said.
He was clear about the premise of the meeting: It was to “reset the relationship.”
Cecil board Chairman Mike Debbis—after asking the audience to be respectful, and reminded them no legislative decisions would be made—told Cannon and his colleagues he believed any friction between the township and the Marcellus Shale drilling company seemed to begin when the municipality changed its oil and gas ordinance from one that allowed the activities as a permitted use to one that allowed them as a condition use.
“That kind of seems to be where it fell apart,” the chairman said.
While some questions were asked regarding the township’s ordinance, Cannon on many occasions asked to shift the conversation to any “ancillary issues” that the company might not be aware of that have damaged the relationship between the two entities.
At that point, Debbis noted that township officials have been confronted by Range leaseholders who call them to say that company officials told them there was no drilling in Cecil because officials there were too difficult to deal with.
Cannon said he was unaware of any Range employees telling leaseholders that, and asked the township to provide the company with a list of those individuals so representatives could reach out to them.
Debbis said the township would do so.
“Now we know what direction to go with these people,” he said.
And both Cannon and Debbis agreed: On that and other issues, there needed to be a better line of communication.
Cannon personally offered to give his contact information to anyone at the meeting who might want it.
Then supervisor Frank Ludwin and Debbis also asked about the company’s intentions to drill in the township in 2013—saying that information would allow Cecil officials to better plan which roads it chose to include in its upcoming paving program.
What would be the point of paving a road, Debbis said, only to have industry traffic damage it?
Range officials indicated that while there were no plans to drill in Cecil in 2013, operations could resume in the latter part of 2014.
Supervisor Andy Schrader then asked a series of five questions on everything from Range’s subcontractors, to why the company sued the township on several occasions, to whether or not Range officials would answer questions from the audience.
Range officials agreed, and several residents stood up, posing questions ranging from water testing to air quality to dealings they had previously with the company.
The public comment period lasted for about 40 minutes before the supervisors adjourned.
Reached after the meeting, both Debbis and Cannon said they were happy with its outcome.
“We opened a new line of communication,” Debbis said.
Cannon said, “I thought it was rather endearing.”
Editor's Note: For video of the meeting, click on the attached video, graciously provided by Robert Donnan.