- Grove City, Pennsylvania

August 1, 2012

Where's the fracking?

Shell says more sites to be drilled but not when or where

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock Township officials have been notified about planned drilling at two more oil and gas well sites, but no one seems to know exactly where they're located or when drilling might start.

Township supervisors said at their meeting Monday they received notice about the two sites from the company proposing to drill, Shell Exploration & Production Co., LP of Warrendale.

Shell is required to notify township officials they are planning to prepare the sites for future drilling, but the notice doesn't say much else, said Paul Dickey, chairman of the board of supervisors, and Karen Connell, township secretary.

The properties being leased for drilling are identified by Shell by last name and number only: Hesselgesser 2068 and 3356; and Reed 3358.

Supervisors said they didn't have addresses for those properties but believe the Hesselgesser land is on Branchton Road and the Reed plot is on state Route 173.

A message left Tuesday for the Hesselgessers wasn't immediately returned and contact information for Reed couldn't be found.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which monitors drilling activities for violations, also didn't have information for those two sites, related permit applications or issued well permits, said Kevin Sunday, an information specialist with DEP in Harrisburg.

"These notifications are a required part of a well permit application," Sunday said of the information Shell did provide to the township.

Also, Dickey said township officials don't know the status of Shell's drill site at 672 Franklin Road, which had a rig erected at one point but was taken down, according to the family of Sylvia A. Williams, the property owner leasing her farmland.

That site has already been readied for drilling and Dickey said earlier this month Shell drilled five or six test wells but had yet to start the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" process.

Fracking means millions of gallons of chemically treated water, and sand, is injected into wells to break up shale thousands of feet below the ground and release trapped gas or oil from shale.

The Marcellus Shale lies a mile or more down in parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. Health and environmental groups and some landowners claim the process can contaminate drinking water, air and land; gas companies and others say it's safe if done properly.

Slippery Rock Township supervisors also continued their ongoing discussion of revising the township ordinance that addresses gas and oil drilling.

Their planning consultant, Richard Grossman, said he's been working with a model ordinance recommended by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which is still finalizing the document.

Grossman said he still has questions about whether companies like Shell would provide the township with exact locations of pipelines they're proposing to build underground, not just the name and number of the drill site itself.

"As a supervisor, I'd like to know where they're at," Dickey said, later adding the drilling boom is a constant learning process.

Supervisors expect to vote soon on adopting the revised ordinance.

Published July 25, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.