The West Virginia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in an appeals case Tuesday that could have major implications for residents living near oil and gas operations.
A group of Harrison County landowners who live near oil and gas sites operated by natural gas companies Antero Resources and Hall Drilling are asking the Supreme Court to require the companies to alter how they drill.
They want relief from what they describe as near-constant loud noises, truck traffic and odors.
The companies argue state law allows them to do whatever is "reasonably necessary" to extract mineral resources when they own or lease natural gas rights and requiring additional drilling stipulations would be burdensome.
In October 2016, the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel, which consists of seven circuit court judges that are appointed by the Chief Justice to resolve cases where many plaintiffs sue one defendant, ruled in favor of Antero and Hall Drilling.
The landowners are appealing. The eventual ruling by the Supreme Court could have widespread impacts -- hundreds of similar cases are pending in courts across the state.
The case was slated to be heard last fall, but was delayed after attorneys representing the landowners asked Justice Evan Jenkins to recuse himself because of a potential conflict of interest. In the petition, the landowners’ legal team argued the "counsel of record" for defendant Antero Resources, Ancil Ramey, also recently represented Jenkins in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate his interim appointment to the Supreme Court.
Ramey said his role in Antero case is "minor." Jenkins ultimately declined to recuse himself.
Two other justices, Tim Armstead and John Hutchison, have recused themselves. Court filings on the recusals do not specify reasons, however, Hutchison previously servied on the Mass Litigation Panel and Armstead served as council for another oil and gas company.