Gas Gag for Dollars

money-mouthWe’ve heard the phrases “put your money where your mouth is” or “put up or shut up”.

In a variation of these old phrases, natural gas corporations are now saying “take the money and shut up”.

In Finleyville, PA, residents regularly complained about air contaminants, noise levels exceeding 80 decibels (inside their homes), vibrations and light coming from nearby fracking operations by EQT Corporation.

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 shut up.

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.

Now, Range Resources is doing something similar in Deer Lakes Park, Allegheny County PA. Rather than waiting for the complaints to start, Range Resources is offering residents near the drilling site a whopping $500.00 to sit down and shut up.

It’s not a typo. It is really FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. In exchange for the gigantic sum of $500.00 residents release the company from liability for increased traffic, noise or dust pollution.

When concerns of noise, light, smoke, odors, dust or fumes are raised, the industry is quick to say “you will never know we are there”.   If true, then why is Range Resources offering $500.00 to residents not to complain about noise, light, smoke, odors, dust or fumes?

According to Range Resources Spokesperson, Matt Pitzarella, an offer of gag money is a common industry practice to prevent resident from filing Nuisance lawsuits.

Per Triblive article: Range Resources offers residents $500 in exchange for vow not to sue

Range’s lease with the county to drill under Deer Lakes Park included language to prevent nuisance cases from nearby landowners, said County Councilman Ed Kress, who represents residents in West Deer and Frazer. The lease has provisions that outline thresholds for noise level and truck traffic.

“The county has taken steps within this lease to make sure no nuisance does occur,” he said. “We can’t address everything, but we tried to do our best.”

Range signed a lease with Allegheny County to drill under Deer Lakes Park in October. The county has received $4.7 million in bonus payments and will receive $3 million for a Parks Improvement Fund, paid in $600,000 installments over five years, and royalties from drilling.

If the lease contained language to prevent nuisance cases from being filed, why is Range Resources offering nearby landowners $500.00 NOT to sue?

Could it be that the operation will exceed the thresholds as set by the lease?

Is $500.00 enough to shut up the residents when the county has and will receive millions?   Heck, even EQT offered more gag money.

Is this really standard industry practice?   Have you been offered gag money, if so how much? Or how much would it take to for you to give up your right to sue?

 

© 2015 by Dory Hippauf

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