Raven Wood case dead in state court, alive in federal

Published 10:07 am Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mississippi Supreme Court shut down the possibility of relief for Raven Wood homeowners in state court Friday.

Homeowners in that subdivision had been seeking to prevent industrial development in their neighborhood they argued was illegal and had led to flooding issues.

But Friday all justices agreed with a 2013 circuit court decision by Judge Prentiss Harrell who found no fault with the county’s plans to develop an area for a rail spur to access a sand-drying facility.

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But this is not the end of the fight. Even though the lawsuit is dead in state court, the homeowners are taking their complaint to the federal court.

The homeowners are represented by Gulfport attorney Skip Negrotto, who said of Friday’s ruling, “I don’t want to make any official comments because there’s still pending litigation going on in federal court.”

Negrotto declined to offer specifics on the federal case, including what entities were named in the federal litigation.

Brenda Rody, one of the Raven Wood homeowners who has been leading the fight could not be reached for comment. The group is collectively known as “Concerned Citizens of Raven Wood Subdivision.”

Jeff Bartlam, president and co-founder of Shale Support, the company that is preparing the sand for use in the fracking industry, defended his company and the expansion plan.

“I haven’t had a chance to read it, and we would decline to comment specifically on that,” Bartlam said in a phone interview. “But in general we are glad to be part of the community and we are looking forward to working as harmoniously as possible with all the constituents. We have a great relationship with the city of Picayune and Pearl River and Hancock County.”

Fracking is a process of extracting oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure liquids and sand or gravel into subterranean rock formations.

Bartlam went on to say that his company is continuing to expand, and the litigation did not slow down any construction. In fact, he said he expects to add more employees, bringing the workforce up to 150 from about 110 people.

“We’ve been trying to doing our part to be the best corporate partner we can,” he said.

Adrian Lumpkin, the county administrator, said he, too, is glad the county is no longer involved in a lawsuit with residents.

“It’s been a long process we’ve been through and the ruling was unanimous by all the Supreme Court and the county handled everything properly through the process.”

Lampkin called the ruling a “relief.”

“I hate to see a situation like that, where we end up spending money to defend it, but that’s part of the process.”

The Associated Press reported that an appellate court upheld Harrell’s ruling last December.