For Immediate Release:
Executive Director, Protect PT
Title: Case Accepted By Supreme Court for Case Around Local Well Pads
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted the appeals 2 WAP 2021 and 3 WAP 2021 regarding the Metis and Gaia well pads in Penn Township, Westmoreland County. Protect PT submitted their appeal to the Supreme Court in 2020. The appeal was accepted on two issues.
Protect PT asserts that the Commonwealth Court’s opinion was in capricious disregard of the evidence standard and creates an issue of such substantial public importance that requires prompt and definitive resolution by the Honorable Supreme Court.
In 2018 Dr. Walter Tsou, MD, MPH., Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, testified before the Zoning Hearing Board of Penn Township as an expert witness. Dr. Tsou testified to the public health concerns and cited the precautionary principle. Dr. Tsou authored a resolution passed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society calling for a moratorium on new gas drilling in Pennsylvania based on the precautionary principle. The resolution also called for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fund research on the health effects of fracking in order to advance our scientific knowledge. In 2020, after pressure from families living around unconventional natural gas development whose children have suffered from childhood cancers, Governor Tom Wolf committed $3.9 million in state funding for two studies examining the relationship between fracking, childhood cancers and other medical conditions.
Also in 2020, the PA Attorney General commissioned the 43rd Grand Jury Report finding that public health is detrimentally affected by oil and gas infrastructure by failing to protect residents during the fracking boom.
In the July 2020 opinion of Protect PT’s case at the Commonwealth Court, one judge, the Honorable Patricia McCullough acknowledged that “Protect PT presented both layperson and expert testimony. Most significantly, [Dr. Walter Tsou, MD, MPH] based his opinion on peer review literature and an analysis of the specific details of the Gaia Well Pad construction and its capabilities and opined that the Township and its residents would suffer detrimental harm.”
Secondly, Protect PT questions whether the “Commonwealth Court's failure to meaningfully evaluate the cumulative impacts of developing multiple unconventional natural gas wells in close proximity to residential neighborhoods creating high probability of adverse, abnormal or detrimental effects on public health, safety and welfare and significantly altering the character of the community was an abuse of discretion which creates a question of first impression of such public importance which requires this Honorable Court's prompt and definitive resolution”.
The Gaia and Metis well pads would be the tenth and eleventh well pads permitted in Penn Township, (3 by Olympus Energy, formerly Huntley & Huntley, and 8 by Apex Energy, LLC). “When the Township allowed over 50% of the land in Penn Township to be available for oil and gas development, I think they saw dollar signs instead of listening to the will of the people who testified that unconventional natural gas development would harm our community,” said Gillian Graber, Executive Director of Protect PT. “We will not back down from protecting our community.”
Memorandum Opinion By Judge Wojcik
Petition for Allowance of Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court