Posts Tagged ‘Plains Township Secretary’

Gas driller eyes site in Plains Twp.

It is up to the state whether to approve or deny the request to seek natural gas.

By Steve Mocarsky
Staff Writer

PLAINS TWP. – A second energy company has plans to drill a natural gas well in Luzerne County – this one behind the East Mountain Business Park in Plains Township on property owned by Theta Land Corp.

Rice Drilling, a subsidiary of Washington County-based Rice Energy, filed an application for a permit to drill and operate a well in the northeast corner of the township with the state Department of Environmental Protection on June 24, according to the department’s online database.

The department has 45 days from receipt to either approve or deny the application.

Encana Oil & Gas is set to begin drilling two wells in Fairmount and Lake townships this summer and has drilling permits for two other sites in Lake and Lehman townships.

According to a DEP well locator map, the proposed well site in Plains Township would be just west of Deep Hollow Pond, a little more than 1,000 feet from Baltimore Drive and less than a mile south of Jumper Road.

Freda Tarbell, DEP’s community relations coordinator for the Northwest Region, said the staffer handling the application was unavailable on Thursday, so specifics on the site, such as acreage and distance from water sources, were unavailable.

A secretary with Rice said no company representative was available to provide information on Thursday.

The permit application is somewhat unusual, given that energy companies normally lease gas rights from land owners before applying for drilling permits. However, no lease for the land had been filed with the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds.

Theta Land Corp. is a subsidiary of Southern Union Co. – one of the nation’s largest suppliers of natural gas – and has been linked to billionaire Louis DeNaples of Dunmore.

Environmentalists criticized DeNaples in 2000 in connection with the purchase of 44,000 acres of land – some of it environmentally sensitive – owned by Theta. He had long been thought to be the buyer, but a confidentiality clause in the sales agreement kept the buyer’s identity secret.

However, DeNaples’ role was confirmed by a Dauphin County grand jury, which determined that a company controlled by DeNaples had purchased Theta. DeNaples in 2008 had been charged with perjury for allegedly lying to state Gaming Control Board investigators about alleged ties to organized crime members. Prosecutors withdrew the charge after he transferred ownership of Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County to a trust.

Plains Township Secretary Kathy O’Boyle said no application for drilling has been submitted to the municipality. She said most of the land behind the business park is zoned as a conservation district and extraction of natural resources would be considered a conditional use. The driller would have to appear before the planning commission and the township board of commissioners for approval, and that process could take about a month, she said.

Reacting to news of the drilling permit application, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said he’s “in favor of economic development and job growth,” but he supports a temporary moratorium on gas drilling in Pennsylvania “until safeguards are in place.”

“There needs to be regulations in place, enough inspectors on the ground, enough state police to monitor and check vehicles and proper water treatment facilities to protect drinking water sources,” Pashinski said.

“We were all very excited when we learned this new industry was coming to Northeastern Pennsylvania. … Their initial presentations were very encouraging. But in light of what happened in Dimock and Clearfield County, I am supporting a temporary moratorium,” he said.

Natural gas migrated from well bores in Dimock, Susquehanna County, contaminating some drinking water wells last year.

A blowout at a well in Clearfield County in June shot explosive gas and polluted water 75 feet into the air before crews tamed it 16 hours later.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

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Copyright:  Times Leader