North Strabane Township approves Marcellus Shale drilling operation

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North Strabane Township Board of Supervisors approved the township’s first Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operation at its voting meeting Tuesday.


Supervisors voted 4-0-1 to approve a conditional-use application submitted by Range Resources for a proposed gas well pad that will be located on a 140-acre property owned by Albert and Scott Bier, owners of A&S Landscaping.


Supervisor Harold Close abstained because he has a lease that would be affected by the supervisors’ decision.


Range Resources presented details of its plan to drill for natural gas on the site, which includes five horizontal wells, at a June 18 public hearing.


The company plans to begin site preparations in upcoming weeks and could begin drilling as early as January, according to Debra Aker, a local government liaison for Range.


Supervisors also approved a waiver request for a wellhead to be closer than 500 feet to one neighboring property line.


The wellhead will be about 1,020 feet from the nearest structure, a building located at North Strabane’s municipal complex.


The drilling operation must follow all of North Strabane’s guidelines for gas production, unless the supervisors grant the company waivers on some conditions.


Supervisors did not vote on a request by Range for extended hours to perform grading work during the summer.


Two residents spoke in opposition to the drilling, including a resident of Chubbic Road who submitted a petition to supervisors with signatures from residents on the road. The petition asked the board to deny drilling at A&S on the basis that some residents have health issues they believe will be exacerbated by drilling.


In other business, supervisors:


• Denied a request from the North Strabane Township police department for $60,835 in police department purchases, including rifles and equipment. Voting against the request were supervisors Robert Balogh, Marcus Staley and Sonia Stopperich. In favor were Close and Brian Spicer. Balogh said he did not have sufficient time to review the request.


• Approved a scope of services proposal to update the North Strabane Township comprehensive plan, submitted by Environmental Planning & Design, at a cost of $55,000.


• Approved a proposal for preparation of a fire department strategic plan at a cost of $8,000. The township will be responsible for $4,000 of the cost.


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