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EMERALD COAL AND COKE COMPANY v. EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY (09/27/54)

September 27, 1954

EMERALD COAL AND COKE COMPANY
v.
EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 80, March T., 1954, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Greene County, 1953, in Equity, No. 442, in case of Emerald Coal and Coke Company, Republic Steel Corporation, Emerald Land Company and W. J. Rainey, Inc. v. Equitable Gas Company. Order affirmed. Bill in equity. Defendant's preliminary objections raising jurisdictional question dismissed and order entered, opinion by HOOK, P.J. Defendant appealed.

COUNSEL

William H. Eckert, with him John T. Brown, John G. Buchanan, Jr., Harry W. Fawcett, W. Robert Thompson, John E. Baily, R. Wallace Maxwell and Smith, Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald & Eckert, for appellant.

Earl F. Reed, with him Charles M. Thorp, Jr., William C. O'Neil, William D. Sutton, Frank J. Gaffney, Walter C. Montgomery and Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, for appellees.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Arnold

[ 378 Pa. Page 592]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ARNOLD

This is a bill in equity brought by the plaintiffs to obtain injunctive and other equitable relief against the defendant-appellant Gas Company, because of its storage of natural gas in strata directly underlying portions of plaintiffs' active coal mining areas and

[ 378 Pa. Page 593]

    mined-out or gob areas connected therewith. The gas is injected under pipe line pressure of 980 pounds per square inch and the storage in question is known as the Pratt Pool.

The complaint asserts, inter alia, that the plaintiffs operate two large electrically mechanized underground coal mines in Greene County, Pennsylvania, which produce metallurgical coal for the steel industry; that one of these mines has been existent since 1902 and the other since 1921; that prior to the opening of said mines the natural gas which formerly had been present in the subterranean cavities beneath the coal seams had been largely removed and the pressure thereof reduced to a minimum; that the plaintiffs' mining rights are superior in law to the storage rights subsequently acquired by the appellant-defendant; that plaintiffs' natural user of the land is being burdened and interfered with by the appellant-defendant's artificial user through the storage of gas directly beneath the plaintiffs' mines, and that this constitutes an illegal trespass; that the storage by appellant of large quantities of explosive gas, contained under a pressure of 700 pounds per square inch, places in jeopardy the lives of plaintiffs' employes and properties, and increases substantially the chance of mine explosions and fires; that among the particular hazards which the defendant's operations have created are the risk of a coal-cutting machine biting into the casing of an uncharted well connected with Pratt Pool and containing storage gas under high pressure, the risk of gas rising up from the storage sands through and around the deteriorated casings of abandoned wells and thence into the mine workings, and the risk that during the repeated surge of high-pressure gas, inside the Pratt Pool and withdrawal wells, passing through the coal seams and other mine areas, a lethal amount of the

[ 378 Pa. Page 594]

    gas is liable to escape into the mines. The plaintiffs pray for injunctive relief and such other relief as the chancellor might be warranted in granting.

To the complaint the defendant files preliminary objections, but only eleven of these are germane to the present appeal, these raising the question of the jurisdiction of the ...


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