New Castle News

September 18, 2013

Pulaski officials OK new well

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Pulaski Township supervisors granted a conditional use permit allowing Hilcorp Energy to drill a new well.

The application was approved 2-0-1 with Greg Carna and Sam Varano voting yes on the project on the property of Laird and Joyce Whiting at 3140 Garner Road. The site is visible from Interstate 376.

Prior to the meeting, the third supervisor, Lori Sniezek, read a prepared statement saying she would be abstaining from participating in the meeting or voting on the Hilcorp well on Garner Road. Sniezek said she is an employee of Hilcorp Energy Co. and is abstaining to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

However, Sniezek did accompany the other supervisors and solicitor Richard Harper when they recessed the special meeting and went into an executive session prior to the vote.

Attorney Blaine Lucas of Pittsburgh and regulatory tech Stephanie McMurray of Hilcorp said the new well will be drilled on the existing wellpad on the Whiting’s property. McMurray said she expects drilling to begin in two weeks and for the well to be completed in 50 to 80 days.

She added all permits necessary for the drilling already have been approved and are on file with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

McMurray said there is no need for new permits at this time because all conditions, including the location on the same wellpad, are the same as the existing well. Permits issued by DEP are good for five years, she added.

Two of the almost dozen people attending the special meeting, opposed the additional well.

Since the first well was drilled, Carrie Hahn of Volant said, wells of three nearby residents have been contaminated. Those issues have not yet been resolved, she said.

In the past year, she said, she and others have inspected DEP files to keep up to date with gas well activity, residential well water complaints and permit applications.

She provided a packet of DEP records, including maps of well locations, to the supervisors and noted that in Butler County, residents have drinking water complaints.

Lucas objected to Hahn’s testimony, saying she lived outside the township where well activity is in progress.

Suzanne Matteo of New Bedford-Shenango Road, said Hilcorp has more wells than it has permits to drill. She said there are at least two permitless wells in the township. She also raised the issue of water problems.

Bruce Clingan, who owns and operates Tanglewood Golf Course, spoke in favor of the gas wells. Clingan said he owns 200 acres, has wellpads on his property and welcomes more.

He also noted the entire area in question sits atop a coal seam.

“Everyone has bad-tasting water or methane in their (water) wells,” he said. “Maybe this will force the supervisors to get city water” in the township.”