Landslide, $45,000 fine didn’t stop Upper Burrell gas well drilling
Wells were drilled despite a state-imposed $45,000 fine against Huntley & Huntley for a landslide on a private road for the Zeus unconventional natural gas well pad in Upper Burrell along Guyer Road.
The slide near the fracking well pad added to regulatory and legal challenges at the site but nonetheless has not stopped progress, according to Kimberly Price, spokeswoman for Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration based in Monroeville.
The state Department of Environmental Protection levied the fine, saying Huntley & Huntley cut the access road without proper clearances last year, according to a DEP consent assessment of civil penalty dated Sept. 28, 2018.
Heavy rains caused the slide, which the company fixed, according to Price.
“When the slip occurred, soil from the work location was deposited into a roadside ditch,” said Price. “The slip was repaired and the soils were removed with the appropriate DEP oversight,” she said.
The township was aware of the slide and that Huntley & Huntley self-reported the incident to the DEP, according to Stephen Yakopec, Jr., solicitor for Upper Burrell. DEP completed its renewal of a permit for erosion control at the site on June 28.
The township has no outstanding issues with the Zeus project, according to Yakopec.
In a second action, the DEP issued an administrative deficiency letter to Huntley & Huntley on Feb. 22 regarding the Zeus pipeline and is waiting for a complete application.
Price said the company working through the process with the DEP.
The pipeline from the Zeus pad is about 250 feet long and ties into a Dominion transmission line.
This spring, Huntley & Huntley drilled and completed two additional wells at the Zeus pad, which went into production in June, according to Price.
“Our team’s collaboration with DEP on the modification of permits has not delayed this progress,” she said.
The Zeus well pad has been the subject of public criticism by the Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution, which appealed the township supervisors’ Nov. 2, 2017, decision to grant a conditional use permit for a well pad.
The legal action never gained traction because, according to plaintiff, it didn’t receive information from the township to proceed with the legal action.
The citizens group claimed in court documents that the well pad wouldn’t meet the definition of “compatible uses” outlined in the township’s zoning ordinance.
By then, the well had been drilled.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .