Forty-three homeowners in the Vintage and Meadows at Hickory Creek neighborhoods have filed a lawsuit against EagleRidge Energy, seeking up to $25 million in damages for creating what the suit claims are nuisances that have diminished the value of their properties.
The suit was filed in state district court in Denton by the owners of 25 homes in the two neighborhoods, which are close to natural gas drilling operations by EagleRidge. It is filed against EagleRidge Energy and EagleRidge Operating.
Fort Worth attorney Kirk Claunch, who is representing the homeowners, said the wells have limited the residents’ use of their property.
“Who wants to go hang out in your backyard when all you hear is the sound of drilling operations and there’s a cloud of dust in the air and it smells bad?” he said. “They don’t want to go outside and do the things that most people want to do in their backyard, whether it’s gardening, swimming or anything like that.”
The suit is seeking damages of $200,000 to $1 million per home, plus court costs.
EagleRidge officials said in a written response to the Denton Record-Chronicle that they would “vigorously defend” the lawsuit.
EagleRidge said in the statement that the wells in question obtained the proper permits, including permits under a city of Denton ordinance that found that gas well development in the area would be “compatible with and not injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property nor significantly diminish or impair property values.”
EagleRidge also noted that the wells existed prior to any homes being built in the Meadows and Vintage developments. The company said it recently completed operations in the Meadows and Vintage area, “redrilling some of the existing wells and returning the wells to production,” according to the statement.
The company said it plans to build fences around the two producing well sites “for security purposes and to improve the visual aesthetics of the area,” once the city grants permits for the fence construction, according to the statement. It said it has plugged and abandoned two wells in the Meadows and Vintage areas.
The Dallas-based oil and gas exploration company has about 10,000 acres under lease in three counties in the Barnett Shale, the gas reserve that sits under much of North Texas, according to the statement.
According to the lawsuit, EagleRidge began operations in August 2013 at four Bonnie Brae gas wells. The pad sites are less than 300 feet from the residential communities; three are north and one is south of the developments.
The suit says that “substances released from the air from these gas wells are offensive, inconvenient, and annoying” and have prevented the homeowners from enjoying their land. The suit also accuses the companies of producing “constant noises” from the operations.
In addition to claiming the sites are private nuisances, the suit accuses the company of trespassing onto the properties by contaminating the air.
The city of Denton sued EagleRidge in 2013, claiming the company was drilling in violation of city ordinances. But the city dropped the suit after a district judge refused to grant the city a temporary injunction to stop the drilling.
EagleRidge has maintained that it has the right to drill at existing well sites because prior permits were already approved for those sites.
The city is now in the midst of a “standstill agreement” with EagleRidge in which the company has agreed not to proceed with some new drilling while officials try to work out an agreement.
The standstill agreement was initially approved in November and was extended for the second time on March 3. It expires again in May.
DIANNA HUNT can be reached at 940-566-6884 and on Twitter at @DiannaHunt.