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Natural gas drilling opponent violated court order, will not be punished

A natural-gas drilling opponent violated a court order banning her from drillers’ work sites and access roads but will not be punished, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation attorneys alleged that Vera Scroggins of Brackney led a tour group to the Costello well site’s access road, situated just off state Route 3023 in Dimock Twp. on Oct. 9.

Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth Seamans ruled that Ms. Scroggins technically violated the court order but would not be punished. He also made clear that the Costello driveway was also a Cabot access road that begins at its confluence with state Route 3023.

On the stand, Ms. Scroggins admitted to guiding a small bus tour, which included New York Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and former Binghamton, N.Y., Mayor Matt Ryan, to that area.

She said the bus drove by a Cabot site in Bridgewater Twp. then headed to Ray Kemble’s home in Dimock, located across from the Costello well site. From there, they walked to the Bill Ely property, adjacent to the Costello land.

Ms. Scroggins also said that she has attempted to comply with a court order issued in March that bars her from going onto property owned by Cabot or its subsidiary GasSearch Drilling Services Corp., prohibits her from entering onto Cabot’s access roads and well pads, and sets a 100-foot buffer from any well pad.

On the stand, Ms. Scroggins said signs posted where the Costello driveway meets the public road were different from those she was used to seeing posted at other Cabot access roads.

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“I wouldn’t knowingly violate an injunction,” Ms. Scroggins said. “I would not go within 100 feet of the road.”

In another matter, Cabot argued that the company believed it had reached a binding settlement in the case in September, following negotiations between attorneys for both Ms. Scroggins and the gas driller.

Ms. Scroggins did not sign the document formulated in the settlement discussions.

Cabot argued that the oral agreement was binding in Pennsylvania and that signatures on the agreement were not necessary. Ms. Scroggins’ attorney Gerald Kinchy said his client had not consented to the settlement agreement.

Ms. Scroggins’ attorney Scott Michelman of Public Citizens Litigation Group, Washington, D.C., also argued that a protective order be issued by the court to keep Cabot from disseminating any personal photographs and journal entries it obtained from their client during the discovery process.

“Cabot could use the fruits of discovery to make her look bad,” he said.

Mr. Michelman asked the court to consider issuing a protective order that would prohibit the company from using any of the information except in the litigation.

Judge Seamans did not issued rulings regarding either the settlement agreement or the protective order request.