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Forward Twp. hears drilling complaints

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

Concerned residents bombarded the Forward Township supervisors with complaints that EQT Resources and other natural gas drilling companies are acting as anything but good neighbors.

For nearly 90 minutes, purported issue after issue was brought to bear: torn up roads, ruined well water, dust problems, late night noise, trucks blowing through stop signs – and as one couple alleged – empty bottles of rum along the road near a drilling site.

But while supervisors Dave Magiske and Ron Skrinjorich – along with Solicitor Matt Racunas – vowed the issues would be addressed one by one with company representatives, they made it clear that gas drilling is here to stay in the township for the next few years.

Supervisor Tom DeRosa was absent.

According to former Supervisor Tom Headley, who serves on the township's drilling advisory board, five wells have already been drilled into the first well pad, called Oliver East. A total of 70 wells are planned, he said.

Racunas insisted the ordinance he drew up for the township to regulate the drilling was “comprehensive” and that EQT and other companies are willing to resolve problems on a case-by-case basis.

“All the conversations I've had with EQT's attorney is they don't want to make anybody unhappy… When they're notified of an issue, they've tried to resolve that issue, and we've never come across anything where they've stonewalled us,” he said. “EQT isn't one guy you can just go to and say, ‘Stop!'”

Magiske concurred, adding the company has responded to the township's requests, but “never as fast as we want.”

Racunas added that relative to seismic testing, Cougar Land Service hasn't begun its necessary permit work and that testing was, at least, “months away.”

“I see a lot of people getting disturbed with this drilling in Forward Township. ... What is Forward Township going to get in the end?” resident John Karloski asked.

“Screwed,” a women answered from across the room, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

“How much are you going to project,” said Karloski, steering the question back to the supervisors.

Magiske said he could not quote an exact figure, because profits to the township depend on its annual budget, as well as assorted other stipulations by the state. Drilling impact fees can only generate half of the township's approximately $1 million annual budget, he added.

“We don't have it in black and white, but everything we read indicates… that we are going to receive substantial benefit,” he offered.

Racunas answered that individual drilling lease owners are to gain financially, as well as the township from impact fees.

“The flip side of that is there are always issues that go along with development,” Racunas said. “This process, particularly, is dirty. There's a lot of truck traffic, there's a lot of water, there's a lot of hauling. But the thought is … in a few years, they're going to develop everything and they'll be gone. And the thought is, the township will benefit monetarily from all this.

“You can't do that development at that kind of cost – hundreds of millions of dollars – and do it without headaches.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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