LISBON - Four Columbiana County landowners won a battle Friday to keep a company that performs seismic testing off their properties.
Gary Carter, Larry Fryfogle, James Zimmerman and Golden H. Acres LLC sought to deny access to TGS-Nopec Geophysical Co., the company hired by Chesapeake Exploration, and refused to sign permits for the testing.
Houston-based TGS filed separate lawsuits in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court earlier this month seeking a preliminary injunction against the landowners and $25,000-plus in compensatory damages from each, but that injunction was denied by Judge C. Ashley Pike on Friday.
Pike said in his ruling that TGS is "attempting to force its way onto the properties," and denied the request based on the fact that the company did not include Chesapeake in the lawsuits.
Chesapeake owns the oil and gas leases for the properties that cover about 1,332 acres in four townships and, according to Pike's ruling, any rights TGS may have to access the properties would be given through rights granted under the exploration company's leases.
TGS is contracted with Chesapeake to complete seismic testing for Chesapeake's use, but that contract was never produced, according to court documents.
"It is also clear that TGS did not see the leases at issue or have any dialogue with the property owners concerning the likelihood that they would be permitted onto the subject premises prior to contracting with Chesapeake," Pike said in the ruling.
Seismic testing creates detailed images of subsurface formations that help determine the location of potential oil and gas reserves.
A TGS official said earlier this week the testing would be conducted by drilling a hole 30 feet down and burying an explosive with a radio controlled detonator at the bottom. When the explosive is detonated a recording device captures the subsequent shock waves to determine what lies beneath the surface up to 12,000 feet down.
Jay Herron of Golden H. Acres said during a court hearing on Wednesday they did not recall any other instances in which explosives were used for seismic testing.
Now that the injunction has been denied, Gary Carter is "ecstatic."
"How dare these people sue on the assumption they can, nothing more. (They are) intimidating landowners and property owners into doing things. We made a major victory against these TGS people," he said.
He added that the reason the land was targeted for testing is because it lies "on the epicenter" of the oil and gas "discovery" in the county.
Carter and his wife Eleanor live on the property that has been in his family 75 years.
"I was born and raised right here on the farm. I milked cows. I thought maybe I would be able to farm in peace, but I've been attacked by every Tom, Dick and Harry. This is big. This is right here on my property, my hometown, and we are really happy about that," he said of Pike's decision.
He also said he hopes landowners throughout the county and even elsewhere will take a stand.
"We don't have to be intimidated by TGS and Chesapeake," he said.
The case is the first of its kind in Ohio.
"We're pleased. The Carters are pleased. We think it was the right decision at this point, and we ultimately expect to be back in the court shortly," Carter's attorney Scott M. Zurakowski said, noting that TGS can file an appeal of the decision.