Upper Burrell residents asking judge to overturn OK for gas well pad
A group of Upper Burrell residents hopes to overturn supervisors' approval of a planned natural gas well pad in the township and is awaiting a Westmoreland County judge's decision.
Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution, through its attorneys, appealed the supervisors' Nov. 2 decision to grant a conditional use permit for a well pad at 7206 Guyer Road.
Monroeville-based Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration wants to locate a well pad in a residential and agricultural zone, where supervisors can make allowances for conditional uses outside of housing and farming on a case-by-case basis.
The citizens group claims in court documents that the well pad wouldn't meet the definition of “compatible uses” outlined in the township's zoning ordinance.
According to Jeff Ries, the citizens group's lawyer, the township supervisors didn't properly deliberate the conditional use application before voting on it and didn't give residents a real chance to make their case.
“We didn't get a full, fair opportunity before the township,” Ries said.
Supervisors Chairman Ross Walker disputes that notion.
“We have been deliberating for 10 years, so that's not an accurate claim,” Walker said. “We've been thinking about this since the whole thing came up 10 years ago. That's really not a fair claim to make against the supervisors.”
Dave Mashek, a spokesman for Huntley & Huntley, said that while his company is a party in the case, it can't comment on it.
Walker said work is scheduled to start next month.
“Nothing has been done in the court — there is no stay, no hold,” he said. “Until the court makes a ruling, it proceeds as normal.”
Ron Slabe, president of the citizens group, couldn't be reached for comment.
Upper Burrell Solicitor Steve Yakopec said this week that the court challenge hasn't been scheduled.
Yakopec said similar cases have been resolved without a trial.
The appeal of the well pad's conditional use approval follows a challenge last year against the township's ordinance related to drilling.
That challenge froze the permitting process until the resident who filed it and Huntley & Huntley reached an agreement, and the case was dropped.
Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.