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Westmoreland

Penn Township fracking hearing to resume Dec. 8

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, 10:33 p.m.

If a hearing this week regarding a request by a Monroeville-based energy company to drill its first fracking well in Penn Township is any indication, the company and public are in for a lengthy, drawn-out process.

Huntley & Huntley Inc. hopes to secure a special exception for a well pad along the 2000 block of Snyder Road, a nearly 700-acre site where it plans to drill one or two wells in 2017 and additional wells in the future, according to the company's attorney Blaine Lucas.

Just over 13 total acres will be disturbed by construction, Lucas said Thursday at a public hearing before the township's zoning hearing board. An existing, partial-access road would be widened and extended by about 740 feet.

Lucas challenged the standing of citizen group Protect PT as an objecting party, questioning whether any of its members lived within a half-mile of the site.

He cited legal precedent establishing that objectors living beyond a half-mile “have been determined not to have legal standing to object.”

Protect PT attorney Ryan Hamilton said he is confident the group has proper standing.

“It hasn't been a problem at other Penn Township proceedings,” he said.

Engineer Nathan Garlitz, contracted by Huntley & Huntley, said the nearest dwelling to the site is a home on Snyder Road, about 1,970 feet away. The current setback required by a Penn Township ordinance is 600 feet.

Projections show the maximum truck trips the site would generate during peak traffic was no more than 50 per hour, Garlitz said in response to questioning from Hamilton.

The operation would “absolutely” require drilling through the former Pleasant Valley Mine, Garlitz said.

He later added that his projections did not evaluate the possible underground release of materials into the mine.

Board attorney John Sweeney said township regulations only require addressing the surface release of drilling-related materials.

The hearing will continue at the board's next meeting Dec. 8.

Previous fracking-well hearings frequently continued over multiple meetings.

A continuation of a public hearing on Apex Energy's proposed Backus well pad along Sedona Lane, originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed due to the unavailability of Apex's main witness.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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