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Apex Energy closer to 7 new gas well pads in Penn Township

| Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 11:45 a.m.

Apex Energy has cleared nearly all local hurdles in its plan to build seven unconventional natural gas fracking well pads in Penn Township.

It now needs only permits from the state before drilling can begin.

The township Zoning Hearing Board last week approved special zoning exceptions for the Backus, Drakulic and Deutsch pads in Level Green, following last month's approval of the Numis well pad near Pleasant Valley and Beulah roads.

This rapid series of approvals follows the township settling with Apex to avoid a $300 million lawsuit. The zoning hearing board last year rejected three well pads, prompting a series of lawsuits from Apex.

The township settled in December, reversing the rejections of the Beattie, Draftina and White well pads. Apex, based in Pine, Allegheny County, agreed to several stipulations.

The company will hire a third party to track air and sound quality during construction. It will create a 24-hour emergency hotline for township officials and build sound-blocking barriers around the sites.

The four pads approved since the settlement include the same restrictions, said Dallas Leonard, Penn Township's director of community development.

“They modeled it exactly the same as they did in the ones from the court order, with the exact same stipulations,” he said.

Getting an unconventional fracking well approved in Penn Township is a three-layer process, township commission Chairman Edward Sullivan said. The zoning hearing board approves the land use. The township commissioners vote on the site plans. Then the state Department of Environmental Protection must permit the actual drilling.

The zoning hearing board has signed off on all seven wells, and commissioners have granted preliminary approval for all sites. The company is leasing land for the well pads from private landowners.

Apex's applications to drill at the Drakulic and Deutsch sites are pending with the state, according to DEP records, which do not show an application for the other five well pads.

Apex already has a fully operational well pad in Penn Township. The Quest site near Walton Road has been working since 2015.

Another energy company, Huntley & Huntley, has received approval from the zoning hearing board and preliminary approval from commissioners for its sole application to build the Poseidon well pad near Snyder Road.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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