2011-09-29 / Local & State

Gas Pipeline Company Countersues Homeowners

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) – Three northeastern Pennsylvania families and a Texas-based natural gas company that wants to build a pipeline to connect to Marcellus Shale wells have sued each other in court this week in a dispute over the project.

The 24-inch pipeline would be built by a sister company of Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas LLC. It would run from Susquehanna County through Wyoming County and into Luzerne County, where it would cross a residential development before connecting to an arm of the Transco interstate pipeline that links the New York City area to storage fields in northern Pennsylvania.

The families, William and Patricia Watkins, Scott and Kelly Watkins and Jeffrey and Jo Ann Dickson, all residents of the Goodleigh Estates development, filed a suit in Luzerne County Court on Tuesday against a neighbor who they allege violated neighborhood covenants by signing a pipeline right-of-way agreement.

They also contend that the pipeline, which would gather gas from the Susquehanna County wells of Chief and various other operators, creates a danger.

Chief countersued in federal court, claiming that Goodleigh Estates covenants do not prohibit or specifically discuss underground gas pipelines. Further, Chief argued that the families’ opposition to the project could lead to months of delays and could cost the company nearly $20 million.

It also claims the defendants made defamatory statements against the company and asks the court for punitive damages.

If Chief must change the pipeline project to an alternate route, it would cost the company almost $2 million more while delaying construction by eight months because of permit requirements, Chief said. While it waits, Chief would lose an additional $2.2 million to $3 million in revenue, it claims.

Chief said it has sought pipeline permits and rightsof way for 22 months and calls the pipeline “one of the largest and most important projects Chief Gathering has ever undertaken.’’

Chief has preliminary approval for the pipeline from the Dallas Township planning commission and applications pending for state permits.

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