A local judge has ruled in favor of property owners and ordered the termination of Danny Webb Construction's lease on property that houses one of his two fracking waste disposal wells.

Fayette Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake ruled that property holder North Hills Group is entitled to terminate Webb's lease because he failed to abide by or breached the terms of the lease.

Blake also said property owners are entitled to injunctive relief, and Webb must stop all activity at the controversial site in Lochgelly.

In 2008, Danny Webb signed a lease agreement with the group for the purpose of exploring oil production on the 3,294-acre property and pays $1 per acre per year for its use.

Although highly unusual, a termination clause was not included in the lease.

An affidavit by Philip Douglas Mooney, who served as North Hills Group president at the time the lease was negotiated, indicated the group executed the agreement for the primary purpose of earning royalties from oil and gas exploration, according to Blake's June 7 order.

If oil and gas exploration was unsuccessful, Webb would be allowed to inject "only salt water and brine," but there was no evidence he attempted to produce oil or gas, according to Blake's findings.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inspector Terry Wayne Urban's testimony proved that since 2008, Webb has breached the lease agreement by injecting fluids other than salt water, specifically waste from hydraulic fracturing operations.

Webb denies regulatory distinctions between "produced water," "flow back water" and "brine" despite how they are defined by West Virginia Code and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, states the court document.

In a footnote, Blake noted that Urban, as part of his job as inspector, permits and inspects wells but has never seen Webb's permit. He also testified "he is not familiar with the regulations he enforces." Blake also noted that Urban testified "he has written Notices of Violations to (Danny Webb Construction) which he believed did not concern safety, public health or a danger to wildlife, but, when asked, he could not recall the specifics."

Blake concludes his footnote by stating: "The Court is somewhat disappointed in this testimony."

Current North Hills Group President Patricia Hamilton sent a lease termination letter to Webb on July 24, 2015.

The order states even after receiving the termination, Danny Webb Construction "brazenly continues to use Well 508" and "continues to represent falsely to the WVDEP that it operates an injection well pursuant to a valid lease."

The court concludes that "the creation of a hydraulic fracturing waste site is a nuisance" and "has the potential to create a liability situation for (North Hills Group) through potential contamination migration onto the properties of nearby landowners and adjacent streams of water."

Danny Webb owns property adjacent to the North Hills Group land where he operates a second injection control well.

A DEP Spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said the wells are each permitted separately, and, although the the wells use the same pump, valving can be shut off to separate the wells. 

— Email: splummer@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer

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