Energy company sues Morgantown over drilling ban

MORGANTOWN – Northeast Natural Energy is suing the city of Morgantown after it claims it is unlawfully attempting to ban lawful activity outside of its border. The city of Morgantown is "impermissibly reaching out beyond its borders to regulate oil and gas activities that are exclusively regulated by the State," according to a complaint filed June 23 in Monongalia Circuit Court. Northeast Natural Energy claims the city is unlawfully taking the property rights of everyone with an interest in Marcellus shale natural gas in the area without any compensation whatsoever. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regulates all oil and gas drilling and extracting activities in the state, according to the suit, and Northeast applied to the WVDEP for permits to drill for and develop natural gas from the Marcellus shale at a well site at the Morgantown Industrial Park, located outside the Morgantown City Limits. Northeast claims the W VDEP granted it permits to conduct horizontal drilling and fracking operations at two natural gas wells at the Morgantown Industrial Park site, but on June 21, the Morgantown City Council enacted an ordinance which prohibits Northeast from completing the Morgantown Industrial Park wells. Despite the fact that the ordinance will totally deprive Northeast of its property rights, Morgantown has no intention of compensating Northeast, according to the suit. Northeast claims the ordinance is unconstitutional and unlawful. The defendant's action has wholly deprived Northeast of its property rights without just compensation, according to the suit. Northeast is seeking for the court to declare the Morgantown ordinance to be in violation of the Constitutions of both West Virginia and the United States of America; award Northeast just compensation in an amount to be determined at trial; and to grant such further relief as the Court deems just and proper. It is being represented by James A. Walls, Michael S. Garrison and Tamara B. Williamson. Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 11-C-411

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