H&H About to Drill Well in Upper Burrell as Antis Plead with Judge

In some places, drillers have to fight tooth and nail, every inch of the way, just to drill a simple Marcellus Shale well. Such is the case in Upper Burrell (Westmoreland County), PA. Huntley & Huntley has plans to drill four shale wells in Upper Burrell Township. Sure there’s been push-back, but we thought the corner had been turned when town supervisors voted last November to approve H&H’s plans (see H&H Drilling in Upper Burrell Gets Final Approval, Raucous Crowd). The supporters of drilling far outnumbered the antis at the meeting. However, a small group of antis remains committed to blocking H&H’s drilling plans. The latest twist is that antis are asking a judge to rule that the supervisors, who were discharging their duties in accordance with the law, erred in their decision to grant final approval for H&H’s drilling plans. Here we go again…

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. (1)

We spotted a second story that gave us a smile. It seems that H&H has taken to naming their wells in Upper Burrell after Greek gods. Rice Energy used to name their wells after super heroes (see Captain Planet to the Rescue! Rice Energy’s Sense of Humor).

H&H has a sense of humor too. Hey, you have to keep a healthy sense of humor when you’re fighting antis every day!

Upper Burrell residents have Greek gods as neighbors at a Marcellus natural gas well site, where the names Zeus and Thalia are used.

Huntley & Huntley, the Monroeville-based gas exploration and drilling company, recently alerted Upper Burrell officials that the Zeus well pad project off Geyer Road includes another name, Thalia, which refers to a holding pond, said Jennifer Hoffman, the company’s vice president of regulatory affairs, environment, health and safety.

In Greek mythology Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods, is the father of Thalia, muse of comedy, according to GreekGods.org.

Other Huntley & Huntley horizontal drilling projects are Apollo B in Elizabeth Township, Midas in Plum and Poseidon, Metis and Gaia in Penn Township.

The use of Greek mythology in naming Marcellus shale wells hasn’t been common in Pennsylvania, Hoffman said, but natural gas producers use a number of approaches to name their well pads.

Well project names have included the host municipality, property owners, geographic features and comic book heroes, Hoffman said.

The company’s leaders considered Greek mythology “a somewhat unique way to identify its drilling locations and attach an image of strength to them,” she said. (2)

(1) Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-Review (Mar 15, 2018) – Upper Burrell residents asking judge to overturn OK for gas well pad

(2) Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-Review (Mar 16, 2018) – Greek gods have gas well namesakes in Upper Burrell

Posted: 03-16-2018


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