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Valley News Dispatch

Marcellus shale drilling company pitches fracking to A-K Valley business leaders

Mary Ann Thomas

A Monroeville-based Marcellus shale well developer has plans to drill more natural gas wells in the Alle-Kiski Valley next year.

Huntley & Huntley Energy Explorations of Monroeville will announce the new wells when approvals are finalized sometime next year, according to Paul Burke, vice president and general counsel for Huntley & Huntley.

The company is best known for fracking for natural gas beneath Deer Lakes Park in West Deer and Frazer. Environmentalists and some park supporters opposed it.

In the Valley, the company has permits for well pads in Allegheny Township, Upper Burrell and Plum.

Elsewhere, it has a well pad under construction in Penn Township, Westmoreland County, and two more in the permitting process. It’s also seeking approvals in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County.

Construction is planned at the other locations in the next several months, according to Burke. He declined to disclose them.

Huntley & Huntley will hold public meetings with landowners near those sites to provide details on the project and its timeline.

Selling fracking to the public

Huntley & Huntley representatives have been visiting local chambers of commerce, such as their visit to the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber on Wednesday morning at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer, to tout the benefits of continued natural gas exploration and drilling in the region.

“This is the steel industry on steroids,” exclaimed Ed Valentas, director of landowner and community relations for Huntley & Huntley, who spoke to the chamber Wednesday.

Increased Marcellus shale well development and more pipelines exporting the natural gas from the region offer prosperity for landowners and businesses, he said, and create more local jobs.

Valentas said Marcellus shale wells provide income from leases with landowners and are “the savior of the family farm.”

Effects worry opponents

However, the promise and the impact or perceived impact of drilling on the land and water supplies continue to be contentious.

For example, a recently proposed update to Plum’s zoning ordinance seeks to limit Marcellus shale drilling in the borough.

Some residents are concerned about potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing to reach the natural gas. The process injects a mix of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals underground to crack the shale, which releases the natural gas.

One of the most challenging issues faced by the gas industry is the “misinformation” from some environmentalists, especially the “zero fossil fuel fanatics,” Valentas said.

As an example, he cited the Marcellus shale wells around Beaver Run Reservoir in Washington Township and the environmental concerns during the approval and development of the wells by CNX Gas.

The reservoir provides water to more than 120,000 homes and businesses in five counties.

“Water samples were tested and after five years, there was no change in the water quality,” he said.

Testing of samples since 2011 by Indiana University of Pennsylvania students and faculty have not detected a threat related to the wells to reservoir water, although they observed silt from construction activities, according to a June 2016 IUP report.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.


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