In Clearfield County, Gas Well Incident Exposes Weak Link

(GantDaily Graphic)

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners admitted that a recent gas well blowout incident exposed a weakness to them at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

On Thursday, June 3, a gas well ruptured around 8 p.m. near the Moshannon State Forest. The well’s operators lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after fracking the shale, according to a press release issued by the Department of Environmental Protection.

As a result, natural gas and flowback frack fluid was released uncontrollably onto the ground and 75 feet into the air. The well was capped at around noon on June 4. The well pad is located in a rural area near the Penfield/Route 153 exit of Interstate 80.

“An issue came out of it or a weak link as I call it,” Commissioner Mark McCracken said. He said EOG Resources, Inc. referred a Texas-based response team, which was among those responding to the scene.

He said the team was unable to fly into the DuBois Regional Airport. As a result, he said they had to land in Johnstown and drive to the gas well site. Once at the scene, he said they were able to assess and handle the problem.

“(But) we’re the heart of the Marcellus shale region. We need one of these response teams to be located in our region and preferably here in Clearfield County,” he said.

Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen said site workers are not equipped to handle these situations. She said she’s been in correspondence with the company, exploring potential for a locally-based team.

McMillen said she plans to write a letter on behalf of the board of commissioners. She said the county offers an attractive, central location that could also service other surrounding counties in the region.

Commissioner Chairman John Sobel concurred with the board, stating Clearfield is not only the “keystone” of central Pennsylvania, but also to Marcellus shale industry.

For that reason, he said it would be an ideal location for a response team. If a team was implemented here, he said it could result in additional jobs.

“They need to bring jobs as well as safety,” McMillen said. With the extension of the runway, she pointed out that the Texas-based team could have landed at the Clearfield Airport.

“I hope they use it (in the future). That would have been 10 miles away.”

McCracken replied, “I don’t want them flying here. I want them already here. These issues can be resolved quickly. We can’t be waiting for a team to fly in from wherever.”

Although they realized a weakness, the commissioners commended Clearfield County Emergency Management. They said they handled a “major crisis” well.

“They did a masterful job. We can’t say enough really,” Sobel said.

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