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Natural gas drilling concerns aired in Findlay meeting

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By Bobby Kerlik
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

More than 150 residents packed a Findlay meeting Thursday night with many demanding that the township force Consol Energy Inc. to move at least one natural gas drilling pad at Pittsburgh International Airport farther away from their neighborhood.

“Use what's in the Findlay code to request an additional setback from our neighborhood,” Stacy Faulk, 44, urged supervisors. “We want to ensure the long-term health of our families. ... The additional setback, that's our insurance policy.”

Consol is seeking permits from Findlay as part of its plan to put six natural gas drilling pads on airport land. Township supervisors listened to several speakers and asked questions of company officials.

“The white elephant in the room is what happened in Greene County. How would you deal with that?” Findlay chairman Tom Gallant asked.

“We see the Greene County event as a very isolated event,” said Craig Hunter, Consol safety supervisor.

Hunter said the airport's fire department would be the first responders and that Consol is working with the department on how to respond.

Supervisors did not vote on the permit request.

Officials have to determine whether the proposal meets the township ordinance, which largely reflects state law but takes into account the protection of the “health, safety and welfare” of residents.

Residents voiced concerns about air pollution from drilling pads, particularly pad No. 2, and safety concerns in light of the Chevron gas well explosion in Greene County on Feb. 11. Pad No. 2 is the closest pad to a neighborhood — Imperial Pointe — at 1,180 feet. Residents want it at least a half mile from their homes, which would be 2,640 feet. State law requires a 500-foot setback.

Joe Zoka, general manager for Consol's central Pennsylvania operations, said the company has made concessions including switching from diesel-powered rigs to electric-powered rigs to reduce noise and pollution. He said the company did a review of all possible locations and said pad No. 2's location was selected for a variety of reasons, including the land topography.

Allegheny County officials hope to raise about $500 million through the agreement with Consol.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 .

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