JEWETT - The Jewett Sportsman club has won a temporary reprieve in its bid to stop shale drilling on its property.
Harrison County Common Pleas Judge Michael K. Nunner issued a temporary restraining order Dec. 12 against Chesapeake Exploration LLC and North American Coal Royalty Co., effectively halting for 14 days any drilling activities on the club's property that might affect its water and timber resources.
In issuing the order, Nunner said "public interest outweighs all the other factors herein."
"The public (is) interested in having the rights of the respective parties protected," Nunner wrote. "The public is also interested in being assured that the rights of any person, group or corporate entity will be determined by the process of law rather than by the size of equipment or depth of economic resources."
Chesapeake said it is "confident that it has the necessary rights to develop and produce the oil and gas from the Jewett Sportsman Club property."
"The limited temporary restraining order that was issued allows Chesapeake to continue its activities so long as the activities do not affect water and timber resources, which is how we intend to proceed," they said in a brief statement issued Tuesday. "Chesapeake is committed to protecting the environment as it conducts its operations. We look forward to working with the Club and the surrounding community to develop the oil and gas resources of the area to everyone's benefit."
Club President John W. Harris, meanwhile, had what appears to be a slightly different interpretation, saying the TRO doesn't keep the energy giant off the property, "but they have to cease operations right now. Everything they are doing has to cease, but they are allowed to come on for erosion purposes, for something like that, but that's it."
The Sportsman Club had purchased the 187-acre property, sans mineral rights, from North American Coal in 1959. North American subsequently sold the mineral rights, which included limited surface access, to Chesapeake.
"(They're) saying they have the right to come in and do what they need to get the minerals out," Harris said. "We're a hunting and fishing club. We liked it just the way it was. It took us years to get it that way and develop the wildlife and stuff. We didn't want the noise and all of that for the little amount they offered us. We could make more in two years leasing it out to hunters than we could with what they offered us."
Harris said they were offered only about $54,000, "and they won't give us a time limit, they won't give us an acreage limit, and they won't give us a hold harmless clause. Basically, if we signed the lease they sent us they could override the whole property, that's one reason we wouldn't sign. And we want a 'hold harmless' clause if someone were to come on the property and get killed, technically we'd be liable."
A court spokesman this morning said a hearing had not yet been scheduled.