Posts Tagged ‘Bethlehem’

Law on gas drilling still in flux, public told

A panel offers an update on legislation, which turns out to center on money.

By Rory Sweeney
Staff Writer

BENTON – With interest increasing in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, there’s a whole swirl of legislation related to it being considered in Harrisburg, but much of it comes down to money.

“A lot of what goes on in Harrisburg is who’s gonna pay to make the pie and who’s going to get a piece,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming. “The fight is how we’re going to divide up the pie. … We want to see the Commonwealth get its fair share, but we also don’t want to … go New York on them and drive them away.”

Everett was among two other representatives – Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, and David Millard, R-Columbia – who spoke on Thursday evening at a meeting of the Columbia County Landowners Coalition.

A state Department of Environmental Protection official and a Penn State University educator were also on the panel.

Everett described the intention and status of nearly 20 bills throughout the legislature, noting that they fit into four categories: taxation and where the money goes, water protection, access to information and surface-owner rights.

While some likely won’t ever see a vote, Everett said a few will probably pass this session, including a bill that would require companies to release well production information within six months instead of the current five years.

He said a tax on the gas extraction also seems likely “at some point.”

For the most part, the industry received a pass at the meeting, with most comments favorable. One woman suggested companies might underreport the amount of gas they take out and questioned what’s being done to help landowners keep them honest.

Dave Messersmith of Penn State suggested that an addendum to each lease should be the opportunity for an annual audit of the company’s logs.

Robert Yowell, the director of the DEP’s north-central regional office, said the rush to drill in the shale happened so quickly that DEP is still trying to catch up with regulations. Likewise, he said, companies are still becoming acquainted with differences here from where they’re used to drilling.

“When they first came to town, I don’t think they realized how widely our streams fluctuated,” he said.

He added some public perceptions need to be changed – such as the belief that people aren’t naturally exposed to radiation all the time – and that he felt confident that “this can be done safely.”

In response to contamination issues in Dimock Township in Susquehanna County, DEP is upgrading and standardizing its requirements for well casings, Everett said. He added that it’s being suggested the contamination in might have been caused by “odd geology.”

“Every time humans do anything, there’s an impact on the land,” he said. “We just need to balance this right so that we end up with something we’re happy with when we’re done.”

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

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County board speeds drilling for natural gas

At issue is tapping into Marcellus Shale in Fairmount and Lake townships.

By Rory
Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE – After more than two hours of testimony on Tuesday night that mostly didn’t address the issues before the board, the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved temporary permits and special exception uses to develop natural-gas drilling sites in Fairmount and Lake townships, among the first in the county.

The board, however, placed several caveats on the approvals, including bonding for all roads used, sound and light control measures, and a prohibition on controlling dust on roads with water contaminated from the drilling process.

The two sites are located in municipalities that don’t have zoning boards, which is why the county board was involved.

In Lake, the site is on two properties on Zosh Road owned by Edward Farrell and Daniel Chorba. In Fairmount, the property just off state Route 118 east of Mossville Road and behind the Ricketts Glen Hotel is owned by Edward Buda.

The 12-month temporary permits will allow the well drilling and the storage of water used therein. The special exceptions allow the permanent existence of the well pad at the sites.

At least 50 people attended the hearing, speaking fervently both for and against the expansion of Marcellus Shale gas drilling into Luzerne County. However, board solicitor Stephen Menn warned throughout that most of those issues weren’t before the board.

“This board has very limited rights about what it can do with regards to gas and oil drilling,” he prefaced. “Your concerns are misdirected to us. They should be directed to your legislators.”

Board member Tony Palischak, who is involved with conservation groups, voiced concerns about drilling. “We’re a little skeptical because of all the hair-raising things,” he said, that have been reported in other drilling areas, including Dimock Township in Susquehanna County. A driller there has been fined and cited repeatedly for environmental abuses.

However, he approved the uses. “We have no alternative,” he said afterward. “It’s up to (the state Department of Environmental Protection) and (the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) to take it from here.”

Still, objectors from as far as Bethlehem noted water and air pollution concerns, along with damage to roads and congestion.

Others welcomed the economic opportunities, and at least one, Charles Kohl, was swayed when the Denver-based companies, WhitMar Exploration Co. and EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc., announced their interest in leasing all properties in those townships.

The companies are also proposing a site in Lehman Township, which has its own zoning board.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader