Paul Rankin bought 150 acres of land in Cecil Township with one intent.
“I plan on drilling this well that’s located here on this site,” he said.
To that end, Rankin graded and cleared a pad, purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of piping and equipment and had a drilling rig on site in July when the township stepped in and stopped him.
Sheehan: “And they said cease and desist?”
Sheehan: “And you did?”
Rankin: “Yeah, I don’t want to fight with the police down at the entrance.”
“Told him there was a process, told him the township had instituted a new oil and gas ordinance that he would have to comply with,” Cecil Township Manager Don Gennuso said.
Cecil recently enacted a tough new ordinance regulating drilling which they say Rankin all but ignored.
“We don’t really get that warm and fuzzy feeling that he’s going to comply with our ordinances,” Gennuso said. “He’s kind of out there. He tends to be a rogue — a rogue operator.”
Cecil has become a kind of hub of Marcellus exploration with two active drills and many more close by. With all of that activity going on, Rankin accuses the township of catering to Range Resources, the company doing the drilling, while throwing roadblocks in his way.
“It’s definitely an example of heavy-handed government. It’s where the big guy can get what he wants in no time at all, and the little guy like me has a very difficult time getting anything accomplished,” Rankin said.
The township counters that in addition to state regulation, Range has agreed to help train Cecil’s emergency workers, repair damaged roads and limit noise and hours of operation.
“They’re a large corporation. They have insurance, they have backing, they have technology,” Gennuso said. “Mr. Rankin from what we understand is just a retired dentist.”
Rankin is a retired dentist, but he says he’s also been in the oil and gas business for more than 20 years and has drilled wells in Texas and North Dakota without incident.
In his view there’s little mystery to it — he has an engineer, a drilling contractor and a deal with Columbia Gas to fee his gas into a nearby pipeline. Up on his hilltop he says the drill won’t pose any danger to anyone.
“It’s like ridiculous. Out here in nowhere and Cecil’s all concerned,” he said.
But the township fears the worst.
“He could just make a mess, leave the site and the residents of the township would be stuck with whatever environmental mess he leaves behind,” Gennuso said.
“Why would they be? I own all the land. So, if anybody would be up the creek it would be me, not Cecil,” Rankin added.