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June 12, 2014

Neshannock approves wellpad request

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock Township supervisors granted Hilcorp Energy’s request to locate a wellpad and five wells off King’s Chapel Road.

The approval for a conditional use to create the pad came with 47 conditions that must be met by the Texas-based company.

Steve Demofonte and chairman Joe Gierlach voted in favor. Ed Stevens was absent from Monday’s hearing and the May 19 session.

Hilcorp plans to build a wellpad to drill five wells. Ultimately, the pad is expected to be the site of 10 wells.

With the conditional use request approved, work at the site is expected to begin “almost immediately,” but drilling is not expected to start until October.

The hearing was continued from last month when township officials asked for copies of permits issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the specific well and water issues and a survey identifying ownership of a former railroad line the company plans to use as access to the wellpad.

Attorney Michael K. Vennum, representing Hilcorp, provided the permits and a survey. It indicated the planned access road, formerly owned by the Lake Erie and Lackawanna Railroad, was conveyed by the railroad to Joseph E. Busin and his wife in 1981, and from the Busins to the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. in 2003.

Vennum shared his title search with Tim Whittaker, an adjoining property owner. Whittaker said he, too, had a title search done on the property and agreed the proposed access road is outside his property line.

“If it is later determined the road is on my property, we will agree to a right-of-way,” Whittaker said. “I don’t oppose the application.”

However, several women at the hearing did voice objections. Although township solicitor Lou Perrotta initially said they could make no statement because they were not township residents or taxpayers, he later relented.

The women — Lisa DeSantis, Stephanie Carter and Margaret Henry — raised safety questions associated with drilling and fracking, asked what provisions have been made to deal with earthquakes that may come as a result of fracking and questioned why the township was giving away land set aside for economic development.

Of the 47 conditions, read by Perrotta, most were included in the township’s newly-revised zoning ordinance.

Conditions include requiring Hilcorp to identify ground to be disturbed, identify public roads to be used and how damages will be addressed, provide a schedule of when drilling, perforating and hydraulic fracturing will be done, limit construction, excavation, alteration or repair work on access roads or the well site to between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. These hours do not apply to drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

In addition, access roads must be gated, retention ponds or pits must be fenced in, guards must be on site when drilling and hydraulic fracturing is done, a plan for the transmission of gas from the site to an off-site pipeline must be provided, lines and compressor stations must be identified, the company must meet with school, public safety personnel and neighbors prior to commencement of operations to explain what is going on, not disturb existing sewer lines, control lighting on the site, minimize noise and identify and maintain temporary access roads and bridges.

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