Residents denounce gas drilling
Supervisors urged to block 6 wells
Eagle Staff Writer
March 24, 2014
MIDDLESEX TWP — About a dozen residents received loud applause from their neighbors as they peppered the township supervisors with reasons they should refuse to allow six Marcellus Shale gas wells to be drilled on the Geyer property off Denny Road. Crystal Yost asked the supervisors to reject the project “on behalf of the 3,200 children in the (Mars) school district who will be within about a mile from the Geyer well pad.” She said that because of a state court restoring local zoning control of drilling sites under the gas and oil legislation known as Act 13, the supervisors could refuse the wells because the Bob and Kim Geyer farm is in an agriculture-residential zone. Yost maintained that shale gas drilling does not fall under the uses allowed in that zone. “Unconventional drilling is a heavy industrial activity,” Yost said. She said the township code states that its provisions were established to promote the public health, safety, comfort, convenience and general welfare of residents. “Act 13 does not trump the township’s rights,” Yost said. She then questioned the supervisors about the feasibility of evacuating the Mars schools in the event of an explosion or other accident at the well site. Don Marshall, vice chairman of the supervisors, said countless hazardous loads are trucked across Route 228 past the schools, which could also cause an accident. He said other industries exist on the school district perimeter where accidents could endanger students. “But this isn’t there yet. We have an opportunity to stop one more hazard to these kids,” Yost said. “Do you want 3,200 angry parents lining up to sue you? Because that’s what is going to happen.” Michele Bertini agreed that the wells should be denied by the supervisors because they are so close to the Mars schools. “This may be the most important decision that you’ll ever make in you tenure here as supervisors or in your life,” Bertini said. “Use your power to make a difference,” Bertini said. Yost told the supervisors that the well site’s guard shack will be farther from the wells than many homes in the Weatherburn Heights housing plan. She also said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe told her he is willing to help the supervisors make their decision to reject the Geyer well site. But one resident in the large crowd, whose 5-acre farm is as close to the proposed Geyer wells as Weatherburn Heights, took the opposite view. Janice Kennedy told the Weatherburn Heights residents that the Geyer well site deal was in the works before their housing plan existed. She also said the supervisors cannot mandate what a farmer is permitted to do with his property. Kennedy also said once the drilling and fracking are done, the items that remain as the well produces are barely noticeable. “I say drill, baby, drill, or move,” Kennedy shouted over the jeers of the crowd. Before the public comment session, township manager Scot Fodi said more than 10,000 of the township’s 14,700 acres have been leased by drillers. He said three wells now exist in the township, on the Kennedy, Reno and Ferree farms. Fodi’s point is that if only a handful of leases were signed in the township, drilling would be less feasible. “Pandora’s box was opened well before we could ever imagine that drilling would happen in the region,” Fodi said. He also stated that the township’s hands are tied. “We can’t tell a resident who has the right to negotiate their mineral rights what they should do with them,” Fodi said. While the Mars School Board last week unanimously rejected Rex Energy’s $1 million lease offer for horizontal drilling under the district’s 172 acres, Middlesex solicitor Michael Hnath said after the meeting that a vote by the supervisors regarding shale gas wells is not required. “Not that I know of,” Hnath said.