Gulfport To Drop Lawsuit Against Barnesville

October 15, 2015
Shale Play

BARNESVILLE - Mayor Dale Bunting says Gulfport Energy will dismiss a lawsuit it filed against the village in March.

According to a joint statement Saturday, Gulfport and village leaders have agreed that the legal dispute is an obstacle to the resolution of their differences. Antero, which intervened as a party to the suit, agrees. As a result, Gulfport will drop the case and continue to work with Antero and Barnesville officials to come to a resolution.

"While the parties have not resolved their differences, they do agree that the lawsuit is an impediment to discussion of and resolution of those differences," the statement notes. "The parties agree that the pending litigation does not provide the best and most cost effective forum in which to address all present concerns of all parties.

"As a result, Gulfport will voluntarily dismiss its lawsuit at this time. Gulfport, the Village of Barnesville and Antero will continue to discuss all aspects of their relationships and will attempt to resolve their differences without resort to litigation."

The company's complaint, filed March 5 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, claims the Oklahoma City-based firm should be allowed to take water from the Slope Creek Reservoir at Barnesville unless the "health and safety of area residents and businesses are impaired."

"Barnesville has frustrated Gulfport's right to develop minerals under the mineral rights agreement by refusing to provide Gulfport with water in violation of Gulfport's water rights," company attorney O. Judson Scheaf states in the complaint.

Gulfport is one of several companies fracking in the area of the western Belmont County village of 4,100 residents. The village hired Columbus, Ohio-based attorney Kevin McDermott to help Barnesville Solicitor Marlin Harper defend the village against the driller. McDermott's answer to Gulfport's complaint includes a request to receive payment for his services.

"The village denies frustrating (Gulfport's) right to develop minerals and denies violating (Gulfport's) water rights," McDermott states.

Scheaf cited an Aug. 17, 2012, agreement Barnesville officials signed that allows Gulfport to buy water from the reservoir for $10 per 1,000 gallons. The contract shows the firm would be able to draw the water until a point when the village would determine such action would endanger "health and safety of area residents and businesses."

However, McDermott took issue with Gulfport's interpretation that it had the "unrestricted right" to do this. Barnesville officials intended to sell water to multiple frackers, Harper said.

Leaders of both Barnesville and Gulfport had until this month to resolve the matter among themselves, according to U.S. District Magistrate Judge Norah King. A pretrial conference had been set for Thursday.

Village officials declined to comment further on the matter. Attempts to contact Gulfport and Antero for comment Saturday were unsuccessful.



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