4 more gas wells planned for Midas well pad in Plum | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

4 more gas wells planned for Midas well pad in Plum

Dillon Carr
A new Huntley and Huntley Energy Exploration well pad is under construction along Coxcomb Hill Road, in Plum Borough, as seen on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

There are plans to drill four additional unconventional natural gas wells on a pad along Coxcomb Hill Road in Plum, and surrounding landowners have been asked to help.

A letter was sent in July to all landowners whose property sits within 1,000 feet of a proposed vertical and horizontal well bore.

The letter includes a questionnaire that seeks information to help the gas company, Monroeville-based Huntley & Huntley, and the state Department of Environmental Protection “identify all nearby offset oil and gas wells,” including active and inactive wells, orphan or abandoned wells and plugged and abandoned wells, within that area of review — those within 1,000 feet.

The well pad, known as the Midas well pad, received the green light to drill one gas well in 2017 by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking is a technique used to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.

According to the DEP, Huntley & Huntley has four pending permits to drill four more wells on its 4.5-acre well pad.

Jen Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Huntley & Huntley, verified the gas company’s plans to drill four additional wells and said the well pad has the capacity for more than five wells.

“There may be plans for more wells on that well pad,” Hoffman said.

As for the questionnaire sent to landowners, Hoffman said all gas companies are required to send them out. Responding is entirely up to each landowner.

“If they know of a well on their property, sharing that information is important,” she said. “It allows us to plan accordingly. And it lets DEP know of additional abandoned wells in the commonwealth.”

Lauren Fraley, DEP spokeswoman, said the mandated questionnaire is one method the agency uses to locate wells in the state, which has a 160-year history of oil and gas development. She said permitting of wells did not start in earnest until 1955, and the agency estimates hundreds of thousands of abandoned wells exist.

“The landowner questionnaire is one mechanism that may be useful in resolving these uncertainties, as landowners may be aware of the location of wells on their property that may not otherwise be mapped or documented,” Fraley said.

She added there is “serious risk” to water sources when operators run into an abandoned well during the fracking process.

“These questionnaires yield valuable information that aids in mitigating the risks associated with communication between the proposed unconventional wells and other wells in the area,” Fraley said.

She said results from the questionnaire, produced by Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc., will be put into a report submitted to DEP before permits are issued for the additional four wells.

CEC was hired by Huntley & Huntley to send out the questionnaires. A representative with the company did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The questionnaires and the gas company’s plans to drill four additional wells at the site come after an investigation into what caused elevated levels of iron and other metals in water in Plum — which are over and above “pre-drill, expected” levels — was closed.

The DEP’s water tests were prompted by complaints from one of the well pad’s neighboring landowners about a month after fracking there was complete. The complaint reported the water well nearly dried up, its filtration system was clogged and a “foul” smell was coming from drains inside a house.

At the time, Fraley said Huntley & Huntley was automatically assumed to be at fault under state law because “the water supply is within 2,500 feet of an unconventional vertical well bore and the pollution or reduction in supply occurred within 12 months of the latter of completion, drilling, stimulation or alteration of the unconventional well.”

However, the complainant withdrew the complaint, so the agency dropped its investigation, Fraley said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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