Federal judge issues temporary restraining order in fracking waste ban case

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 21, 2016

CHARLESTON – U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver Jr. has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Fayette County from enforcing a county-wide ban on the storage and disposal of oil and gas waste.

“Having reviews the verified complaint and motion, supporting exhibits and memorandum of law, and having conducted a hearing on the motion on January 19, 2016, the court grants a temporary restraining order…” the Jan. 20 temporary restraining order states.

EQT Production Company established that it was likely to suffer immediate and irreparable injury or loss before the court makes its final ruling on the request for permanent injunctive relief and established that the balance of equities tips of tips in its favor, according to the order.

“EQT has established that an injunction is in the public interest,” the order states. “As described in the verified complaint and discussed at the hearing, requiring that EQT cease its oil and gas production activities threatens to harm EQT and its employees.”

It is also in the public interest that EQT and oil and gas operators in a similar position should not be at risk of prosecution or other enforcement action under an ordinance that is likely to be deemed invalid on one or more grounds.

The order states that it is to remain in effect until midnight on Feb. 11and the court will hold a hearing on Feb. 11 at 10 a.m.

EQT filed its complaint on Jan. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against Matthew D. Wender, the president of Fayette County Commission; Denise A. Scalph, a Fayette County commissioner; and John H. Lopez, a Fayette County commissioner.

On Jan. 12, the commission adopted an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Banning the Storage, Disposal, or Use of Oil and Natural Gas Waste in Fayette County, West Virginia,” and the scope of the ordinance is so broad that it effectively prohibits anyone from continuing oil and gas production activities anywhere in the county.

The ordinance also prohibits EQT from operating the UIC Well, which has been properly permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The prohibitions would make it unlawful for EQT to operate its oil and gas wells in Fayette County.

EQT is represented by Timothy M. Miller, Christopher B. Power and Matthew S. Casto of Babst Calland Clements and Zomnir PC.

The defendants are represented by Larry E. Harrah II of the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; and Thomas A. Rist of Rist Law Offices.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:16-cv-00290

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