A state appellate court ordered a Washington County judge today to consider hearing arguments to unseal records in a settled court case alleging that a family was harmed by nearby gas drilling.
Stephanie and Chris Hallowich sued Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners claiming that gas drilling operations harmed their health and property value.
The parties formalized a settlement in August 2011 during a private meeting in Judge Paul Pozonsky's chambers, after which the case file was sealed.
A reporter from the Post-Gazette objected to the closed-door proceeding and the paper filed a petition a week later to intervene in the case and to unseal the record. The Washington Observer-Reporter filed a similar request and a judge denied those requests in February.
Superior Court Judges Judith Olson, Paula Ott and James Fitzgerald wrote in the decision issued today that Judge Pozonsky erred in denying the papers' requests to intervene in the case and therefore argue that case file should be unsealed.
Judge Pozonsky unexpectedly retired this summer, about a month after the president judge stripped him of his ability to handle criminal cases.