By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
A large crowd filled Harrisville Volunteer Fire Company Wednesday to check out an open house hosted by Shell Exploration & Production Co., which had staff members on hand to talk with residents about local gas and oil drilling plans.
"We're thrilled with the outcome," said Scott W. Scheffler, a communications advisor based out of Shell's Warrendale, Pa., location.
The line moved slowly around the room as people paused to chat with the Shell representatives and check out the posters and handouts that described hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves injecting water, chemicals and sand deep underground to break up and extract gas and oil deposits, a controversial method that environmental groups and some scientists and engineers say poses health and safety risks.
Industry leaders like Shell maintain fracking is safe, and area residents like Karen Frampton of Mercer Township say there's so much information about fracking - positive and negative - that she's still trying to decide how she feels about it.
"I just don't know much about it," she said as she waited at the end of the line.
Frampton lives on about 10 acres and has never been approached by a gas company to lease her land for drilling rights and she's not sure if she would.
"I'd have to think about it," she said, adding she'd want to know if her water supply could be contaminated if a well was built on or near her property.
A Greenville-area couple that got in line behind Frampton wished to remain anonymous but spoke briefly about living near a well in West Salem Township.
They have a lease with D&L Energy for drilling rights on two acres of their land, a deal they made in 2003 that comes with a $5 monthly payment.
A lot of their neighbors have leased and there's been talk of more wells being built there in the near future, they said, adding they came to the open house to learn more about fracking and what rights they have as leasing property owners.
"I just don't want to be taken advantage of," the man said.
Friends and neighbors Turk Tayfur and Dee Humes own property in Worth Township, Butler County, about two miles from the Shell well on West Liberty Road, which sits on land owned by the Drake family; it can also be seen from Interstate 79.
Both men have leased their land and the agreements have changed hands several times and are now owned by Shell.
Tayfur signed 107 acres of his non-working farm in 2005 and Humes, of Pittsburgh, signed 180 acres of his hunting camp in 2006.
"I wanted to see the pros and cons," Tayfur said of attending the open house.
He's seen a few anti-fracking programs like the documentary "Gasland" and has some concerns about possible contamination of his spring water.
Tayfur hasn't noticed anything different about his water since the Drake well was built, but he plans to order a $70 water quality test through Microbac, which he has done every few years.
Humes also wonders about his water quality but has faith in the "strict" monitoring guidelines set by the state Department of Environmental Protection that companies like Shell must follow.
"These companies, if they make a mistake, it goes national," he said.
Scheffler later said Shell likes to be "open and transparent" about its activities and he was glad residents were willing to take the time to come and learn more about drilling.
Shell also has a well off of Franklin and Harmony roads in Slippery Rock Township, Butler County, on land owned by Sylvia Williams.
They're planning to build a few more in the area within the next few months: in Mercer Township; and in Mercer County in Lake Township and Fairview Township, said Joe Minnitte, a case manager with Shell.
More open houses will be scheduled as plans move forward to build more wells, Scheffler said.
For more Shell Appalachia information, call the community hotline between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-842-7308, or visit www.shell.com
Published Feb. 2, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.