Court Orders Disclosure of All Chemicals Used since 2009 at Gas Company Drilling Site
A judge in a matter before the Court of Common Pleas in Washington County, Pennsylvania entered an order on November 5, 2013, directing Range Resources Inc., and approximately 40 of its subcontractors and suppliers to provide a list of every chemical or other substance used at the company’s site near Amwell Township since 2009. The Court issued the directive in a civil action filed by several local residents who allege that they suffered various injuries as a result of the gas company’s use and disposal of fluids and other chemicals at the site. The residents allege that the gas company disposed of the fluids and chemicals in an on site lined pond. They further alleged that the liner in the pond developed a leak and as a result of the leak the fluids and their component chemicals leaked into the ground waters and ultimately into the residents’ water supplies. The gas company has denied the allegations.
The Court’s Order directs the gas company and its subcontractors to provide a list of every chemical, component or substance used at the site since 2009. The list is to include each material that comprised 100% of the “product’s formula” used in the fracturing of natural gas wells on the site. The Court’s Order also directs those companies to note whether the materials are no longer in use, and, if so, to note the differences from those since 2009.
Apparently, the Court’s Order stopped short of requiring the disclosure of the exact formulas, including proportions of products, used by the service companies and its subcontractors in the well development and fracturing process. Traditionally, such formulas have been deemed proprietary in nature and have been protected from disclosure, either by statute, regulation or evidentiary exclusions.
Another issue raised by the Order is the Court’s directive to companies which are not parties to the action. The terms of the Order direct the gas company’s suppliers and contractors to comply with 30 day deadlines by submitting information regarding the chemical composition of their products sold to and used at the site. Only three of the companies identified in the Court’s Order are actual parties to the civil action. Clearly those parties are subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. The remaining thirty-seven companies are not defendants and not currently parties to the litigation, thus those companies may not be subject to the Court’s jurisdiction in this case and, further, the Court has not provided the non-parties any opportunity to contest the validity of the order nor the opportunity to seek any protection against the disclosure of the information related to their respective company products.
The case is pending in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania and is styled Stacey Haney, et al., v. Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC et al. Civil Action No. 2012-3534.
If you want additional information about the issues raised by the Court’s Order please contact the author Bob Pollitt or other members of the Environment & Regulatory Section at Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC.