Range won’t proceed with North Strabane well immediately

September 18, 2013

Range Resources won’t be constructing its first drilling rig in North Strabane Township – at least not for another week. Some eyebrows were raised at a township public hearing Tuesday when an attorney for the natural gas drilling company said Range could legally proceed with the proposed well pad on Christy Road without the township’s approval. However, Matt Pitzarella, Range Resources spokesman, said Wednesday that Range plans to continue to work with township supervisors, who could potentially vote on the vertical well pad during a legislative meeting Sept. 24.

“How we interact with townships is a sensitive issue. It’s very much our intention to work closely with them and do things the right way,” Pitzarella said. “We’re not moving a rig out there this afternoon or anything.”

The public hearing was held prior to the board’s nonlegislative meeting, so it came as a surprise when lawyer Kenneth Komoroski asked the board to vote on the conditional use application of the well pad Tuesday, saying there would be “severe financial consequences” for Range if that agenda item were delayed.

Pitzarella said a drilling rig costs Range upward of $50,000 a day, which can result in a loss for the company if it isn’t up and running by the expected start date. He said although Range wants start on the well as soon as possible, that “shouldn’t be interpreted to suggest that that’s going to trump the community’s needs or the township’s condition.”

Komoroski also contended Range had already been granted deemed approval for the well pad because the township waited until the last possible day to hold a public hearing. Township Solicitor James Jeffries disagreed with Komoroski’s position and said deemed approval is granted 60 days after a public hearing is held if the township does not make a decision.

Pitzarella said the determination on whether the company has deemed approval for the well pad would result from a continued conversation with the township. Township manager Frank Siffrinn said Wednesday that Range had not yet contacted the township with follow-up questions after the public hearing and that from the township’s perspective, Range does not have the necessary approvals to proceed with the site.

“Out of respect for Range and knowing that they are on a pretty tight timeline, I think that the board is willing to work with them in terms of considering a decision as early as next Tuesday,” Siffrinn said.

Jim Cannon, manager of local government relations for Range Resources, described the plan for the proposed well site as short-term, exploratory and noninvasive. He said vertical drilling of the shallow well would determine whether or not there is dry gas (primarily pure methane) or wet gas (a number of liquid constituents) in that area.

Cannon said drilling would enter only a sandstone formation that is about 3,000 feet deep and would not hit the deeper Marcellus formation, which makes the process faster and less extensive.

“It’s our desire to be able to begin development there,” Pitzarella said. “We think that North Strabane could be very prospective for activity. It hasn’t seen as much activity, so as much science and testing as you can conduct ... you never know until you can drill some wells.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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