Confidential agreement should have been part of Washington County Marcellus Shale case record
A just-released Washington County Court transcript of an August 2011 settlement hearing in a high-profile Marcellus Shale damage case shows the case records should have included a missing confidential settlement agreement, and reveals details of an unusual lifetime “gag order” that covers two minor children involved in the case.
According to the 16-page transcript, then-Washington County Court Judge Paul Pozonsky approved sealing the court records with the settlement agreement “attached thereto” in the private hearing held to settle the claims of Chris and Stephanie Hallowich against Range Resources, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream and Markwest Energy.
The Hallowiches, who had been long-time critics of shale gas drilling, claimed that Marcellus Shale gas development — including four wells, gas compressor stations and a 3-acre wastewater impoundment — adjacent to their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Washington County, damaged the family’s health and the value of their property.
The Hallowiches signed an affidavit as a condition of the settlement that stated their family’s health was not damaged by the gas operations.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter successfully petitioned the court to unseal all of the Hallowich case records, but when more than 900 pages of records were released in March, the confidential settlement agreement was missing from the file.