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Butler Township OKs gas-drilling plan

| Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A plan to drill for natural gas at a Butler Township golf course has angered some nearby residents and opponents of hydraulic fracturing.

Yet there was little recourse for township commissioners but to approve zoning changes to allow Rex Energy to construct a Marcellus shale well pad to drill for natural gas on the Krendale Golf Course, said chairman Joe Hasychak.

Hasychak said he and other commissioners didn't like the plan but voted for it unanimously because it complied with the township and state regulations.

“It is in compliance. We had no choice. They could have taken us to court and would win. They have millions of dollars,” Hasychak said of Rex.

The meeting drew the largest crowd in his 30 years as a commissioner, Hayschak said.

“I have never seen a meeting with that many people, standing room only. The opposition is angry. We were called all kinds of things. People were shouting out names,” he said.

The golf course is 239 acres. Drilling would take place on a 31-acre empty plot at the site from a pad about 550 feet from the nearest home — just outside of the state-imposed 500-foot limit.

Opponent Sam Hoszwa says the site is within one mile of VA Butler Healthcare, Northwest Elementary School, Moraine Pointe Plaza, Lowrie Place Nursing Home, Butler County Memorial Park Cemetery and hundreds of single-family homes.

The commissioners' approval of the project occurred after the township planning commission refused to vote on the plan earlier in September.

Township zoning officer Jesse Hines said he can't remember the planning commission ever refusing to make a recommendation.

“My recommendation was to approve. If they comply with state and local regulations, there is no reason to deny it. The applicant complied with all the regulations,” Hines said.

Section 27 Alliance, a group opposed to drilling and this project, says it is considering legal action to challenge the township's drilling ordinance, based on its “apparent violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” said Joseph McMurry, a Butler County resident and member of the group.

Rex's well permit application now is under review with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Steve Harris, the company's director of civil and environmental engineering in the Appalachian region.

The township-approved plan includes an emergency response plan that “meets and exceeds requirements,” he said.

Rex operates about 50 other well pads in Butler County, he said. The company plans to start construction of the well pad at Krendale this fall.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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