By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
The public and Slippery Rock school board members are invited to two informational meetings that will address hydraulic fracturing topics as district officials continue to consider a possible lease on school land for gas and oil drilling rights.
“How noisy will it be from drilling, truck traffic?” Arthur Richards of Slippery Rock Township asked at Monday’s board meeting, citing just a few of the concerns he hopes school directors keep in mind.
Richards handed out flyers listing information about the meetings, which will focus on the potential lease being proposed by XTO Energy for 1.33 acres of land on the edge of Moraine Elementary School property in Prospect.
Richards said the meetings will be run by Jason Bell, a Seneca resident and Slippery Rock High School graduate who has spoken at several board meetings, urging school officials to take their time and do their research about health and environmental risks associated with drilling.
Bell was unable to attend Monday’s meeting.
The first public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov 12) in the gym of Moraine Elementary and it will include general information about “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, from local experts on why the district needs to be “keenly aware of, and prepared for, potential negative impacts of the gas drilling on lands adjacent to Moraine Elementary School,” according to the flyer.
The second meeting is at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 in the Moraine gym and it will serve as a follow-up to the first meeting and include a more in-depth explanation of the emerging science concerning health hazards and potential financial liability that might be incurred by the district.
Richards, Bell and other concerned area residents and taxpayers are also encouraging the board and public to attend a meeting set for 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Butler County Community College, Butler, in Succop Theater, where Dr. Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering will speak on “The Science of Shale Gas: The Latest Evidence on Leaky Wells, Methane Emissions, and Implication for Policy.”
Board member Kirby Lotz said that even though a lease has yet to be drawn up, XTO has made it clear they will not be touching the surface of school property and drilling will not be passing underneath Moraine.
“They’ve not even asked for access to our property,” Lotz said of wanting to address those concerns.
“I know that, but air is air,” Richards said of how the board still needs to consider air quality, even if the drill pad isn’t right next to the school.
XTO has said it’s planning a drill site in Prospect on Route 528 East and the 1.33 acres on the edge of the Moraine property is one of multiple leases the company is working to secure with area landowners.
Richards also noted “Gasland II” will be screened for free at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Robert M. Smith Student Center Theater at Slippery Rock University, and filmmaker Josh Fox will attend the screening of the HBO Documentary Film; the event is being presented by Marcellus Outreach Butler.
“Gasland II,” the sequel to “Gasland,” is described as showing how money and lobbying by the natural gas industry has influenced legislation and government policies threatening the democratic system of government of “by the people, for the people.”
Also on Monday, the board appointed Melissa Allen to fill the seat vacated by Dr. Mark Mraz, who resigned Oct. 7 for personal reasons.
The position represents Region 3, which covers Brady and Worth townships and Slippery Rock and West Liberty boroughs.