New Castle News

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March 17, 2014

DEP seeks extra hearing, more room

NEW CASTLE — State officials are seeking greater public participation for a hearing on a request that could lead to “forced pooling.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is asking that the hearings be moved to a facility that  can accommodate 500 people, and that an additional day of hearings be added.

“This is the first-ever spacing order application for an unconventional shale gas well, and it is very important to DEP that Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to have their voices heard and comments considered,” said DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Perry.

The hearings are scheduled on a request by Hilcorp Corp. of Texas for the DEP to issue a well drilling and spacing unit order. That order would establish four gas well drilling units on 3,267 acres of Utica Shale formation in various locations in Pulaski Township, Lawrence County, and Shenango Township, Mercer County.

Two days of hearings are now set for 10 a.m. and 8 a.m. March 25 and 26, respectively, in the Penn State Extension Conference Room at the Lawrence County Government Center. That room can hold about 70.

The DEP is asking that a third day be added to the two days of hearings to “accept written and verbal testimony from all interested persons.” 

If the well drilling and spacing unit order is granted, the next step would be another hearing on an integration order. If this is granted, it would force holdout landowners to negotiate a price and sign a gas and oil lease.

A decision on the public participation requests will be made by the assigned hearing officer, attorney Michael Bangs of Cumberland County.

The hearing is authorized by the Oil and Gas Conservation Act of 1961. The law’s purpose, according to the DEP, was to encourage development of natural oil and gas resources, to “minimize waste of oil and gas resources which may otherwise remain underground due to inefficient development ...” and  “is intended to protect the correlative rights of property owners who may either be prevented from participating in a voluntary development unit, or who may receive no compensation for the development of their oil and gas resources due to the development ... from adjacent property ...”

More information is available on the DEP website, www.dep.state.pa.us, by clicking on “Oil and Gas,” “Office of Oil and Gas Management” and then “Conservation Law.”

The DEP announced the hearings last week in legal advertisements and says it sent letters to 200 property owners, although not required by law to do so.

Bangs will make a recommendation on the spacing order after the hearing, but the final decision is up to DEP Secretary Christopher Abruzzo.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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