Fracking well hearing wraps up in Murrysville; decision expected in November
After four months of testimony and comments from residents, the public hearing for Murrysville’s first proposed fracking well pad is complete, and council members will likely take a vote at their second November meeting.
Both Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration — now doing business as Olympus Energy — and the Protect P-T citizen group rested their cases at council’s Wednesday meeting, and council will, during the next two meetings, discuss different aspects of the project, a fracking well with up to six wells proposed for 71 acres off Bollinger Road.
“It seems traffic and noise are going to be the hot-button issues,” Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said.
Olympus has resubmitted plans to convoy trucks moving in and out of the site, and technically the public hearing record will remain open until Oct. 12 for all parties involved to respond to comments about the updated plan from a traffic consultant.
With no more testimony, however, the floor was open for public comment.
“HHEX has done a very good job in trying to convince Murrysville residents that the Titan well pad will be no problem at all,” said resident Barbara Sims. “Allowing gas drilling to occur in 37% of the municipality is unconscionable. I know what your response will be — the state requires us to allow drilling — but you have given the drillers a very easy path.”
Resident Sam Staymates — one of several attendees wearing blue “Natural Gas Supporter” T-shirts — praised the years of work Murrysville officials put into developing their fracking ordinance.
“It’s one of the best safety programs going for this natural gas stuff,” Staymates said. “I give you guys a lot of credit for all the time you put into it. And I would say that if any opponent owned any acreage and was involved with natural gas, they would be on my side.”
The Murrysville Zoning Hearing Board during the summer ruled against a challenge to the validity of the municipality’s fracking ordinance. The challenge was brought by the Murrysville Watch Committee citizen group, which filed an appeal of that ruling Sept. 27 in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.
Resident Dennis Skeers asked council to delay its ruling until the validity appeal is decided.
“Murrysville cannot claim to be protecting its residents with the existing ordinance, with the increasing evidence of fracking’s threat to human health and safety,” Skeers said.
Before public comment began, HHEX wrapped up its testimony with information from a noise consultant, who said the loudest sustained noise nearby residents are likely to hear is 80 decibels, roughly equivalent to the sound of a lawnmower at 50 feet.
Ron Slabe of Oakmont disagreed.
Slabe used to live in Upper Burrell, about 1,600 feet from Olympus’ Zeus well pad.
“I moved before the drilling started, but I was there during the building of the well pad, which was quite noisy in itself,” Slabe said. “Since the well has been drilled and fracked, I’ve had friends tell me about the massive amount of noise coming from that well pad. The idea that they’ll go in, go out and the noise will be over is false.”
Council’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Murrysville municipal building on Sardis Road. Morrison said noise will be the main topic of discussion related to drilling at that meeting.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .