Plum injection well project will get EPA permit
The Environmental Protection Agency has granted a permit for a company to drill an injection well in Plum.
The permit for Penneco Environmental Solutions comes despite a public hearing in July that drew 200 people, many of whom spoke against allowing development of the injection well used for disposing wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the EPA received around 400 complaints about the proposed well from 120 people during a public comment period which ended in August.
The Delmont-based company's injection well will dispose of fracking water and other fluids from oil and gas drilling operations at a site off Old Leechburg Road near the border with Murrysville and Upper Burrell.
Fracking is a technique to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.
Many concerns residents expressed are not within the EPA's power to regulate, said the agency's response to comments. Among those were increased truck traffic and noise, damage to roads, diminished property values and runoff into nearby streams and rivers.
Those are “commonly addressed by state and local regulations,” the federal agency said.
Penneco still needs to obtain permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said the agency has not received Penneco's injection well application. She said the DEP will announce details about a public hearing on the injection well once the company applies for the permit.
Penneco Chief Operating Officer Ben Wallace said he is excited to move forward with the project.
“Candidly, it's a safe project. It's the safest way to dispose of fluids — we're putting them back where they came from,” Wallace said.
Disposal injection wells are used in the oil and gas industry to permanently get rid of water and brine, both by-products of Marcellus shale drilling, according to the DEP.
Dave Vento, a former Plum councilman who opposed the injection well and Marcellus shale drilling, was upset the company had been granted a permit.
“I would not want to see it in our community. It affects many areas and the water systems throughout. I'm very worried about our community,” Vento said. “I don't know what we can do to stop it.”
Matt Kelso, a Plum resident and manager of data and technology for FracTracker Alliance, said residents were united in their opposition to the injection well. FracTracker Alliance is a nonprofit that keeps watch over oil and gas development across the world.
“The EPA's decision is frustrating,” Kelso said. “Over 200 people packed the community center, and of the dozens of people who spoke, not a single person was in favor of disposing of oil and gas wastewater here. ... It really doesn't feel like the will of the people matters much right now.”