Driller makes its case for first fracking well in Murrysville | TribLIVE.com

Driller makes its case for first fracking well in Murrysville

Patrick Varine
Laurie Statam of Murrysville, on the right, testifies during a public hearing before Murrysville council on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
Ryan Dailey, with Civil & Environmental Consultants, is cross-examined by Protect P-T attorney Anton Berkovich during a public hearing before Murrysville council on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

Murrysville residents got a detailed look at the proposed Titan well pad on Wednesday night, during a public hearing before municipal council that will continue next month.

Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration, or HHEX, wants to construct a 350-by-500-foot well pad on a 71-acre property off Bollinger Road in eastern Murrysville, the site of the former Kowalski strip mine which was last active in the 1970s.

HHEX has seven wells in the region, in Penn Township, Plum, Upper Burrell, Allegheny Township and Elizabeth Township. The Titan pad is the first unconventional drilling application to be filed in Murrysville since municipal officials finalized their fracking ordinance.

The public hearing was for two conditional-use applications, one for the fracking operation itself and a second for site excavation work.

Ryan Dailey, a project manager with Civil & Environmental Consultants, said about 9,000 cubic yards of cut-and-fill will be moved during construction of the pad, which could include up to six wells. “In terms of well pad development, that is very minimal,” Dailey said.

HHEX wells have received 187 violations from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, 100 of which are categorized as outstanding, said Scott Cleveland, HHEX’s director of environmental health, safety and regulatory.

Under questioning from Anton Berkovich, attorney for the Protect P-T citizens group opposing drilling in Penn Township, Cleveland said many of the violations are related to sediment and erosion control.

“Some of those have been exacerbated by the rain we’ve had in Western Pennsylvania, and some of those have been rebutted by HHEX. “We work with the DEP and try to achieve full compliance on all our sites,” Cleveland said.

Protect P-T was eventually granted standing to participate in the hearing after initially being overruled.

Berkovich brought forth several members of the group who lived between one and two miles from the site, but was denied standing by Murrysville special counsel Bill Sittig, who referenced a half-mile as the generally accepted standard.

About 20 minutes later, Berkovich brought forth Laurie Statam, who lives adjacent to the site on Hilty Road. Under questioning by HHEX’s counsel, Statam testified she’d joined Protect P-T moments before arriving at the hearing. Sittig granted the group standing, and Berkovich was permitted to question HHEX’s witnesses.

Vance Hazzard, HHEX’s vice president of operations, said the company conducts annual training sessions with local first responders in advance of operations. He did not know for certain if Murrysville emergency crews had undergone training, “but if not, we’ll ensure it happens before operations begin,” he said.

HHEX has five additional witnesses.

Council’s next meeting is set for July 10, 7 p.m. in the municipal building at 4100 Sardis Road.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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