Fracking Frustration in Finleyville

Enough

There comes a point where frustration reaches its limits and becomes Enough is Enough.   Residents of Cardox Road in Finleyville, PA have reached that point with natural gas fracking.

Beginning in 2012, approximately 12 natural gas wells have been drilled and fracked at the Trax Farms, located across from the homes of Gary Baumgardner, Georgann Baumgardner, Rachel Cecchini, Antony Cecchini, Mieczyslaw “Mickey” Gniadek, Sabine Gniadek, and George Simmons.   Since then the residents have been subjected to air contaminants, noise levels exceeding 80 decibels (inside their homes), vibrations and light.

Complaints to township officials only resulted in a temporary shutdown of drill operations for 1-2 weeks while a “noise studies” were conducted. Upon completion of the studies, drilling operations would resume.

These complaints were making lots of noise and were a nuisance to EQT.

EQT ‘s solution to the complaints was to offer approximately 19 property owners a total of $50,000 each for signing a Noise and Nuisance Easement. (The original offer was $40,000.)

By signing the Noise and Nuisance Easement, these property owners granted EQT easements for noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot or other air pollution, vibrations, adverse impacts or other conditions or nuisances which may emanate from EQT activities.   In other words – take the money and stop complaining.

Those who signed gave away their right files any claims against EQT, agreed to being gagged, and the Noise and Nuisance Easement is attached to the property forever, no matter who may own it in the future.

The Baumgardners and a few others declined to be gagged.

Sue’em All

In March 2015, the residents filed a lawsuit against Chesapeake Appalachia, EQT Energy, Trax Farms, Mason Dixon Energy and Matt Aurilio for damages arising from Defendants’ oil and/or natural gas drilling, exploration, extraction, pipeline construction, transportation, and related acts and/or omissions. (Click Here to read the suit)

The significance of this suit is naming of the property owners (Trax Farms), the land company (Mason Dixon Energy) and their employee (Matt Aurilio) as defendants.

In the past these lawsuits usually just named the drilling corporation.   This is now changing to hold them all accountable.

A November 2014 lawsuit filed by the Lauff family names the property owners as defendants. The natural gas operations in question reside on land LEASED by the Carter family to Range Resources. (Read SUE THY FRACKING NEIGHBOR )

CHK-EQT-Finleyville
The Players

The Landman: Whatever it takes

In 2010, the residents were approached by Matt Aurilio, an employee of Mason Dixon Energy.   Mason Dixon Energy was contracted by Chesapeake Appalachia, a division of Chesapeake Energy, to acquire leases for Natural Gas Drilling.

Aurilio made a number of misrepresentations about leases and drilling operations including “wouldn’t even know we’re here”.

Aurilio also asserted if the residents didn’t lease, Chesapeake would simply take the gas anyway and property owners would not receive royalties or other compensation.

A question to ask at this point is if a natural gas driller can just take the gas anyway it can, why would it want to spend money on leases and royalties?  All it would need is one lease as a location to place a well pad then it’s “Frack Baby Frack” in any direction and under anyone’s land.

These statements by landmen are typical. Many property owners have been told the same by many different landmen from different companies.

A landman works for the industry, and his/her job is to get property owners to sign leases for the lowest price possible. Their job is NOT to look out for the best interests of property owners, neighbors or the community.

Chesapeake Energy

When Chesapeake began drilling in October 2011, despite Aurilio’s assurances of “wouldn’t even know we’re here”, the residents did know Chesapeake was there. When drilling is in operation it is around the clock operation with all the noise, bright lights at night and air pollutants.

Two months after drilling operations began, Mickey Gniadek experienced extreme and dangerous levels of what was later determined to be chlorine and methane gas on his property, which caused him to develop clinical signs of asphyxiation and trauma due to being temporarily unable to breathe.

In another incident, the Baumgardner’s bedroom air monitor flashed orange and the odor drove the family out of their Cardox Road house for hours. Another day, their daughter Rachel Cecchini, then eight months pregnant, moved out of the house next door and into a rental home several miles away.   Cecchini’s baby daughter is not permitted to be near active drilling sites per doctor’s orders.

The winter of 2012-2013 was unusually warm, demand for natural gas for heating dropped and coupled with over production by the industry in general sent prices well below the financially profitable prices.   A number of companies, Chesapeake Energy included, began to sell off leases.

EQT Corporation

EQT Corp. purchased 99,000 net acres in southwestern Pennsylvania and 10 horizontal Marcellus shale natural gas wells in Washington County from Chesapeake Energy Corp in May 2013. The Trax Farms lease was part of the deal, and EQT took control of drilling operations.

There are 12 wells on the pad; one was drilled by Chesapeake before Selling to EQT.   EQT drilled and fracked 11 more wells starting on late 2013.

Trax Farms

As part of a leasing agreement, a property owner may stipulate where the well pad and operations may be located.

The Trax Farms chose to have it away from their business and closer to the neighbors. The plaintiffs’ homes range average between 450’-800’ from the Trax Farm well pad. Distance from the center of the well pad to the Trax Farm business is approximately 1,000’. Wind direction is typically from west to east.

trax-farm-fracking

From the Trax Farms webpage:

What started out as a simple little farm market in the bottom of our barn has become a top-notch 85,000 square foot retail farm market and Garden Center with 15 different departments all under one roof.

Trax Farms departments include an Antique Loft, Bakery, Berry Picking, Deli, Fresh Produce, Outdoor Furniture, Wine Shop and more. Trax Farms also sells Christmas Trees. trax farm

The Baumgardners had asked EQT to shut down during the holiday season so they could have their traditional family Christmas celebration.   EQT refused.

Drilling operations were shut down in late December at the request of Trax Farms because customers would be coming to buy Christmas trees and for holiday shopping.

Breathing and choking on polluted air and being subjected to ear aching noises is not a pleasant experience when picking out a Christmas tree.

Drilling resumed after the holidays.

Videos of Drilling Operations on Trax Farms from December 3 – 15, 2014:

  • Fracking with Frosty at Trax Farms: Dec 3, 2014, Fracking eleven EQT gas wells on TRAX FARMS between Finleyville, Pa. and Library, Pa. along Route 88.
  • Fracking with Frosty Part 2: Dec 4, 2014, 21 Fracking Days ’til Christmas 2014 at Trax Farms near Finleyville, Pa. where EQT is hydraulically fracturing 11 wells. An EQT representative said fracking will continue through the end of March 2015.
  • The Fracking Fog around Trax Farm: December 15, 2014, Fracking continues at EQT’s Trax Farms location with frack fog lying low all through the area the night this video was shot, that smelled like burnt coal or a match which has just been extinguished. More recent odor complaints include a chlorine odor. In addition to all the rancid odors and loud humming noise for neighbors (which has often exceeded township specifications) is the vibration emanating from the ground.

 Related:

 

© 2015 by Dory Hippauf

 

 

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