Findlay approves airport drilling

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Some Findlay residents are upset the approved plan for natural gas drilling at Pittsburgh International Airport doesn’t include moving a well pad farther away from their neighborhood.

Supervisors voted 3-0 on April 23 to approve the Consol Energy plan to drill up to 60 Marcellus Shale and Upper Devonian wells from six pads on about 8,800 acres of airport property.

A half-dozen of the wells will be drilled from pad No. 2, planned for less than a quarter-mile from some homes in Imperial Pointe.

“I am incredibly disappointed with the ultimate decision,” said Stacy Faulk of Imperial Pointe, one of 50 residents who attended the meeting at the Findlay Township Activity Center.

“All we asked is Consol concede one little item, and they refused to do so,” resident Allen Fiedler said.

Supervisor Thomas Gallant, who lives in Imperial Pointe, wanted to require Consol Energy to move the well pad at least a half-mile away, as residents had requested, but neither of the other board members, Janet Craig or Ray Chappell, seconded his motion to add the requirement to the 23 other conditions of approval.

Mr. Chappell said the board based its decision on legal advice and guidelines in Act 13, the state’s drilling law.

“If I could do this from my heart, it would be a half a mile, believe me,” Mr. Chappell said.

Ms. Craig said the 23 conditions protect public safety and welfare and address most of the residents’ concerns.

“Having been on the board for 14 years, I can honestly say this is the hardest, the most grueling decision I’ve had to make for a job that surely doesn’t pay,” Ms. Craig said.

The nearest home in Imperial Pointe is 1,180 feet from the edge of the planned well pad. Residents had asked for an additional setback of 1,460 feet, for a total of a half-mile.

“I apologize that you obviously didn’t get the result you wanted, but I ask you to try in your hearts to accept it, and we will be watching this [project],” Mr. Gallant told residents.

Mr. Gallant said after the meeting that he voted in favor of the final decision because he supports the 23 conditions.

Findlay anticipates receiving about $3 million over 10 years from Act 13 drilling impact fees—plus some employment-related tax revenue — due to the airport wells being drilled, township Manager Gary Klingman said.

The money would be used for capital improvements such as roads, infrastructure or water lines, he said.

Over 20 years, Allegheny County is expected to gain $500 million from the project, which will yield an estimated 280 billion to 800 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Work is set to start this year.

Supervisors granted a limited waiver from the township’s prohibition on temporary worker housing at the well sites. They allowed up to 30 workers per well for a total of six weeks during drilling, and two workers for two weeks during completion activities.

The board said air monitoring must occur throughout operations by the driller or the Allegheny County Health Department, which already has installed a monitor in Imperial Pointe.

Other approval conditions include noise and light limits, road bonding, police and fire training requirements, use of fencing, reforestation and the driller and landowner following all applicable local, state and federal laws.

Communication requirements include creation of a public complaint/information hotline with a call log, regular meetings in Imperial to update township residents and address their concerns, and monthly activity reports that township officials can post on the Findlay website.

For school bus safety, traffic flaggers must be stationed at well site entrances on Hookstown Grade Road and Route 30.

Construction hours are limited to between 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or until 9 p.m. when the West Allegheny School District is not in session.

Deep well injection of wastewater and all types of burning were prohibited.

“Our warning to Consol is if any of these issues are broken — any of these commitments or these conditions — we are prepared in every way, shape and form legally to come down hard on you,” Mr. Gallant said.

David Vollmer of Imperial Pointe said he appreciates the protections but was disappointed the local government was unable to secure the well pad move.

“I think it was a pretty realistic, practical and really industry-friendly approach that the community took here in terms of cooperating and meeting and opening a dialogue with the driller,” he said.

In a statement, Consol Energy president Nick DeIuliis said the township vote “represents the final step in what was a collaborative and comprehensive process with substantial, open dialogue among all stakeholders.”

He said the airport project will be “a model for the entire nation in safely and responsibly developing our natural gas resources to drive economic growth.”

In addition to drilling 60 wells, the plan includes building 11 miles of on-site gas collection lines, about 6 miles of off-site lines to carry the gas to market, 12 miles of water supply lines, one freshwater impoundment and two impoundments for waste fluids that would be reused for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Consol Energy plans to purchase about 40 million gallons of water from Findlay Township Municipal Authority.

The gas wells will be  primarily in Findlay, but Moon officials also must approve drilling on a well pad that’s within their township.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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