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South Buffalo attaches requirement that driller fix damage to roads

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Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

For the first time, the South Buffalo Township supervisors are requiring a gas well drilling company to hire its own contractor to repair damage done to township roads by trucks traveling to the site.

The board imposed the condition when approving requests from MDS Energy of Kittanning to drill three Marcellus shale gas wells in the township.

Supervisors held a public hearing on the well requests on Wednesday.

“We're trying to keep up with it, but I had to stop and think: You guys are reimbursing us for this, but that doesn't cover the wear-and-tear on the machinery, and it's taking us away from doing our regular maintenance work,” Supervisor Terry Van Dyke said. Van Dyke is the township's road master.

Van Dyke said he spoke with a PennDOT official and learned this is how the state agency handles the issue. He said supervisors plan to make hiring a contractor a condition of approval for future well requests from any company. The contractor must be certified to do maintenance on state roads.

Companies doing work that could damage state or municipal roads typically sign agreements to cover costs to restore the road to its original condition.

As well drilling into the natural gas rich Marcellus shale has increased, it's become difficult for municipalities to keep up with the maintenance.

“We're getting more people involved and more concerns to address as well as everything we had before this gas well drilling came,” Supervisor Glenn Heilman said. “So we find ourselves rather burdened by this extra activity on the township level.”

Michael Knapp, MDS vice president of land and public relations, said the company has no problem complying with the condition.

“We'd be more than happy to help with anything we can,” he said.

MDS Energy plans to drill vertical Marcellus shale wells on three properties:

• Zecca farm, 109 Spohn Road.

• Crytzer farm, 188 Foreman Road.

• Slate Lick United Presbyterian Church, 106 Brown Road.

Knapp said MDS would like to start drilling by March 31. The operation, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is expected to take about three weeks, with an additional week to restore the site.

MDS says it plans to use a nitrogen-based fracking process that uses less water than the traditional process, which requires millions of gallons of water.

About 50 truckloads of water would have to be hauled to the site, he told supervisors.

Knapp said the fracking will be done in two stages. About 80,000 gallons of water will be on site at one time.

The wells will eventually be connected to a gathering line that collects natural gas from other wells in the township.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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