Judge Upholds Morgantown Frack Ban, Denies Injunction, Drilling Continues

by Duane Nichols on June 25, 2011

A suit filed on Thursday and heard in Monongalia Circuit Court on Friday states that the new Morgantown City ordinance, which bans horizontal drilling with fracking, infringes on Enrout’s rights as a land and mineral owner and amounts to an unconstitutional taking and by failing to read the ordinance in its entirety, the city failed to follow its own charter, thereby invalidating the ordinance. 

The suit asks the court to void the ordinance and grant any other appropriate relief. It also requests a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, citing irreparable harm in halting operations already under way, as reported in the Morgantown Dominion Post on June 25th.

Morgantown may have a small legal victory at this point. Judge Russell Clawges denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to stop the City from enforcing its law. City Attorney Steven Fanok said that won’t halt Northeast Natural Energy’s drilling at the Morgantown Industrial Park Marcellus gas well pad, but will prevent the company from fracking when drilling is complete. Fanok said Clawges merely stated that at this time, a temporary restraining order would be inappropriate.

At the hearing, Fanok said, it was explained to the court that the gas well operation wouldn’t be in violation until fracking would begin. Northeast can continue drilling until then.

Northeast President Michael John issued this statement Friday: “While we had hoped to avoid legal action, it has become apparent that the judicial system is the only recourse to protect our rights and investment in our wells in the Morgantown Industrial Park. … We are also encouraged that the court recognized that the City of Morgantown has changed the rules after we have invested more than $7 million in this project and we will seek full compensation for Morgantown’s attempt to unlawfully take our property rights.” 

(Northeast can still drill a vertical well, frack it, and produce the gas if a permit is obtained from the City, subject to a legal interpretation and ruling on the new ordinance.)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: