Cecil supervisor releases info on private Marcellus Shale meetings

August 20, 2013
The entrance to the Worstell impoundment in Cecil Township - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The Worstell water impoundment in Cecil Township was the topic of discussion earlier this month when township officials met privately with a Marcellus Shale driller and environmental regulators in separate gatherings.

However, people who attended the controversial meetings, including Cecil Township’s board president, could not predict what impact the discussions would have on the water impoundment or the relationships between all of the parties.

Supervisor Tom Casciola, the board’s president, said the Aug. 6 meeting with Range Resources last about 45 minutes and centered on concerns about truck traffic on Swihart Road near the impoundment and the permitting procedure that led to its construction.

“We didn’t make any deals with them,” Casciola said. “We really just told them about our concerns and they agreed to address them.”

He said the township continues to receive complaints about heavy tanker and truck traffic in the area and set up roadway cables to monitor the number of industrial vehicles.

Casciola, who was joined by supervisors Elizabeth Cowden and Frank Ludwin, said they also discussed apparent confusion over the township’s permitting process and how Range notified the municipality of the impoundment. The driller also informed the supervisors of a new hotline available to lease holders, residents and municipal officials, Casciola said, although he did not have the phone number available.

Range Resources officials did not return messages seeking comment on the private meeting.

Questions about the legality of the private meeting were raised even before the three supervisors met at Range’s Southpointe headquarters. However, Casciola didn’t think the meeting was illegal and denied that the other two supervisors weren’t invited.

He produced an email from township Manager Don Gennuso alerting them of the day and time. However, Supervisor Andy Schrader, who didn’t attend and has asked county officials to investigate it, said he feels misled because there was never a confirmation of the meeting.

This is the not the first time township supervisors met privately with a Marcellus Shale company. Both Casciola and Schrader confirmed they met privately with MarkWest in the board chambers four years ago, although Schrader said he now regrets that situation.

Casciola said supervisors might hold another private discussion with Range and include residents who live near Worstell before the township’s next meeting. He thinks that will take place in the township building an hour before the Sept. 3 voting meeting.

“We still need to gauge what their concerns are because they’re the ones who are really impacted,” Casciola said of residents living on Swihart Road.

Just a few days later after meeting with Range, the township supervisors, including Schrader, met privately with four state Department of Environmental Protection officials Aug. 9. They apparently discussed the Worstell impoundment’s permit and the apparent leak at the site in late 2011. Schrader said he brought questions from affected residents and was disappointed with the lack of answers he received about the spikes in underground well monitors.

“I think the issues that are the biggest concern to me weren’t really answered,” Schrader said.

DEP spokesman John Poister, who attended the meeting the regulatory agency’s Pittsburgh headquarters, said the discussions between the two parties were a good starting point “to establish a line of communication” for future issues.

“They got a chance to meet with our top oil and gas people,” Poister said. “In a meeting like this, you aren’t really going for answers in terms of solutions, but answers (to know) where everybody is coming from. It’s a first step, and I think that’s important.”

Poister said they also discussed the impoundment’s permit and how long it should operate. He said DEP officials contend that the impoundment can operate as long as it’s being used, even if water is being trucked in from faraway wells.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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