Farm hands pick carrots at the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm in Rochester.
Erasmo Trejo harvests carrots at Kretschmann Family Organic Farm in Rochester, Beaver County.
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An overflow, equally divided crowd of more than 300 people attended Wednesday night’s New Sewickley township supervisors hearing on a proposal to build a Marcellus Shale gas compressor station in southeast Beaver County next to the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm, one of the region’s oldest and most profitable organic farms.
“I speak on behalf of the Ziegler Road neighborhood, and we see no benefits to this compressor station coming into our neighborhood,” said Chris Palmer, a resident of the road leading to the proposed compressor station site.
“This type of facility should be put somewhere else, not in a residential neighborhood.”
Dallas-based Cardinal Midstream Inc. has applied for a conditional use permit for the proposed 12-acre compressor station site on Teets Road, about 2,000 feet from the Kretschmanns’ farm in an area of the township zoned for agricultural use.
Darlene Parisi-Dunne, another township resident, said she has concern the “safety, quiet and rural serenity” of the township will be lost if the compressor station is built.
“That’s what drew us here and that is what is now threatened,” she said. “I ask you to deny the zoning permits based on property rights, property values and health concerns.”
But Terry Broniszewski, a local farmer, said the shale gas drilling has brought prosperity to the local farms that have signed leases and are receiving royalties.
“For all of you against this proposal, if you stop the compressor station and drilling, you’ll see a lot of for-sale signs on farms again and we’ll have Walmarts. This is a beautiful township, and this compressor station is the best way to keep it beautiful.”
The township’s five-member board of supervisors — at least one of whom has leased the gas under his property to drilling companies that would pipe gas through the compressor station if it is built — will decide whether to grant the zoning permit within the next 45 days.
Many at the hearing, held at the Big Knob Grange in Rochester, Beaver County, wore stickers announcing their support of Don and Becky Kretschmann, who started the organic farm on Ziegler Road 35 years ago, and through a Community Supported Agriculture or “CSA” program they established, now sell vegetables, fruit and herbs to more than 1,000 families in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties. They also sell at various farmers’ markets in the region.
Mr. Kretschmann has said he’s worried about pollution from the compressor station affecting his organic produce and calling his certification and livelihood into question.
More than 200 of the farm’s CSA customers have sent letters of support to the commissioners urging them to deny Cardinal’s request for the zoning variance.
Duane Rape, the chairman of the supervisors, said 678 landowners, including him, have signed shale gas leases for their property, covering a total of 15,517 acres or 71 percent of the township. The proposed Cardinal compressor station, which would connect via pipelines to as many as 80 wells in the area, would initially contain four 1,340-horsepower compressors that would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and emit 78 tons of nitrogen oxides, 24 tons of volatile organic compounds and 98 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
The Kretschmanns are concerned those air pollutants, plus the diesel exhaust from the six to eight tanker trucks a day needed to transport condensate — water and wet gas — from the site each day, could damage their crops and call into question the farm’s organic certification. Accidental spills, additional air emissions, “burps” or “blowdowns” caused by equipment malfunctions could also occur, adding pollutants to air and water and causing additional degradation to the farm’s soil and groundwater.
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds can combine in the presence of sunlight to produce ground-level ozone, the principal component of smog. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ozone and smog can cause a variety of breathing and lung problems, worsen bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, and interfere with plant growth and development.
Cardinal has said it has plans to double to eight the number of compressor units at the Pike compressor station in the future.
Several representatives of Cardinal and its consultants made lengthy presentations about how the compressor was sited, plans for mitigating the loud operating noise from the compressors and road improvements in the area around the proposed site.
Christi Wilson, managing consultant for Trinity Consultants, a Pittsburgh air consulting firm, said the compressor engines Cardinal would use would meet and exceed state and federal standards. She said farm animal flatulence releases more methane than the natural gas industry.
While Mr. Rape said he has signed a lease for his shale gas, Supervisors Ross Jenny, Greg Happ and Dave Yeck have not signed leases for their property. John Nowicki declined to say if he has signed a shale gas lease.
Richard Weber, chief executive officer of Penn Energy Resources LLC, which will push gas from its wells to the proposed compressor, said the Cardinal proposal meets or exceeds the terms of the township’s ordinances and the zoning law.
“I know not everyone supports this and I know it will have an impact,” he said. “Our job is to make sure to minimize that impact. ... This facility will not impact the quality of the produce and livestock grown in the community.”
But Holly Wilson-Jene, a Mt. Lebanon resident who is a chemical engineer and customer of the Kretschmanns, said the chemical pollutants that would be released by the compressor station are highly toxic, including cancer-causing benzene. “My concern is the proximity to the organic farm,” she said. “This facility is more like a small refinery. It may be classified as a minor source of pollution, but it’s a major issue.”
Michael Oliverio, an attorney representing the Kretschmanns, moved to enter the 200 statements from the organic farm’s customers into the record and also to continue the hearing to allow additional experts to offer testimony.
Wayne Lucas, attorney representing Cardinal, objected to the introduction of the organic farm customer emails because they were not from New Sewickley, and said the company “vigorously objects to a [hearing] continuance.”
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