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Placement of Butler Township well pad questioned

| Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, 2:17 p.m.

Opponents and even some township officials who voted for Rex Energy's plans to drill for natural gas at Butler Township's Krendale Golf Course are unhappy.

The proposed well pad is barely outside the state-mandated set-back from residential areas, and opponents and officials like Joseph Hasychak, chairman of the township's board of commissioners, say they are even less happy because they realize the drilling might have been prevented.

Until late 2012, the township had an ordinance that prohibited drilling of any kind in residential areas. That would have included Krendale, officials said.

The township that year changed its ordinance to comply with Act 13, a state law that prohibited municipalities from banning or restricting hydraulic fracturing. A year later, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down parts of that law, thereby allowing municipalities to regulate fracking, but Butler Township never re-instituted any restrictions.

Hasychak said the township did not have time to change the 2012 ordinance. He said he's frustrated with changing state regulations — and with Rex Energy.

“Why did they put it just over 500 feet from a home? They did not want to disrupt the golf course. That's why,” said Hasychak.

Joseph Krenitsky, owner of the golf course, did not return phone calls.

The township has asked Rex Energy to consider a different location, he said.

The company will not consider moving the Krendale well pad, said Steve Harris, Rex Energy's director of civil and environmental engineering in the Appalachian region.

Considerations in locating a well pad include local traffic and highway infrastructure, topography and water infrastructure, Harris said. Rex plans to install a sound abatement wall to reduce noise and glare from the drilling site, he said.

Jordan Yeager, a Bucks County lawyer who argued against Act 13 before the state's highest court, said he wrote Butler Township's commissioners about its ordinance.“They are allowing drilling everywhere. They should be afraid of getting sued for that. They had the ability to change their ordinance, though that would probably not affect this particular project now,” Yeager said.

The golf course is 239 acres. Drilling would take place on 31 empty acres about 550 feet from the nearest home.

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.

“I have a 10-month-old son who attends the Lifesteps program less than a half a mile from the well pad site,” said Aaron Edwards of Butler Township.

“I am extremely concerned for his safety should the terrible occur in the form of an accident, fire or blowout ... and even the potential harm in the air he breathes while outside on the playground.”

Joe McMurray, a township resident, is a member of the Section 27 Alliance, which opposes the project.

The group is named for Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees “a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

Last month, a Lycoming County judge ruled that a natural gas well cannot be drilled in a residentially zoned area, despite approval from the municipality. That decision is being appealed and could have broader implications, said George Jugovic, chief counsel for environmental group Penn Future, who argued the case.

He said Butler Township officials could have rejected Rex's application.

“Commonwealth Court enjoined — before the Supreme Court decision — enforcement of the portions of Act 13 that attempted to override local zoning. So it shouldn't be an excuse to say we were complying with Act 13,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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