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Apex Energy considering several Penn Township drilling sites

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

As part of its push into Southwestern Pennsylvania, a Marcellus shale-drilling company is considering as many as eight projects in Penn Township, municipal and company officials said.

Representatives of Apex Energy, which received state permits this year to drill in three Armstrong County locations, have met with officials in Penn Township and Murrysville as they evaluate several potential drilling sites in the region.

Mark Rothenberg, CEO of Apex Energy, confirmed that one of the targeted locations is “real close” to the Penn Township-Murrysville border. Some residents in both municipalities are supposed to receive letters requesting water-quality testing in case properties near them are used for drilling, he said.

Leasing agents working on behalf of the Pine Township-based company have been talking to people in Penn Township and Murrysville about obtaining mineral rights.

“We have people leasing and are constantly looking at projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Rothenberg said. “We have no bull's-eye on any singular township out there or a single county.”

Though Apex officials didn't divulge many details about potential sites in Penn Township, they mentioned interest in as many as eight projects within the next year, said Dallas Leonard, the township's community-development director. Proposed changes to the township's zoning ordinance that are being considered would permit oil and natural gas extraction in all five of the proposed zoning districts, though some conditions would apply.

“There's no question, they're looking at all the communities around,” Leonard said.

As of Tuesday morning, the only potential Apex site in Penn Township that is listed on the state Department of Environmental Protection's website is a family farm near the North Huntingdon and Trafford borders. To date, Apex has requested only an expedited permit for erosion and sediment control, DEP records show.

Meanwhile, Murrysville chief administrator Jim Morrison said Apex applied for an erosion-and-sediment-control permit with the state for Marcellus shale activity in the municipality. But the property along Lyons Run Road isn't located within the municipal drilling district, he said.

“We told them that whatever they think they might do there, it is not a permitted use,” Morrison said. “They said their plans were preliminary.”

Apex's interest in part of Murrysville surprised homeowner Jeanne Zombek, who lives about a quarter of a mile from the Murrysville Swim Club. She said a New York-based agent inquired about a lease on her property, which she described as being “in the heart of Murrysville.”

“It's not something we would have even done if we were interested in drilling,” Zombek said.

As for the water-quality testing letters, DEP spokesman John Poister said that is something that some drilling companies do as a good practice. The state agency advises companies to do the testing but doesn't require it.

“That way, when there is a question (about water quality), they have a baseline to work off of,” Poister said.

Chris Foreman and Daveen Rae Kurutz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Foreman can be reached at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com. Kurutz at 412-871-2365 or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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