CLEARFIELD – Resident Darlene Marshall presented the Clearfield County Commissioners with an “undersigned petition” that opposes the proposed construction of a disposal injection well off Highland Street Extension in Brady Township and sought written support from them at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
She and the 279 petitioners are seeking to halt the permitting process for the frack wastewater injection well. The petitioners are concerned about the chemicals, radiation and the “other known and unknown” hazardous material that pose a serious risk of contamination to water sources and surroundings.
The petition’s cover letter states that the underground migration of frack wastewater, air pollution, tanker truck traffic dangers and spills are only a few of the residents’ fears. The petitioners also realize that noise pollution and declines in property value will accompany the construction of this frack wastewater well site.
“If these waste wells need to exist at all in Pennsylvania, they should be located in more remote areas,” the petition states. “. . . This populated area of Highland Street Extension is laced with old deep mine shafts and gas well sites from the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s era that would carry polluted waters to destinations impossible to predict.”
In April, State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, introduced House Bill 2350, known as the Injection Well Safe Water Act. These wells dispose of industrial gas drillers’ waste from the Marcellus shale play. Only injection wells drilled for the disposal of waste from oil- or natural-gas-related drilling will be affected by this legislation.
“My bill provides for a two-year moratorium on the drilling of any new injection wells used for disposing of oil or gas waste,” George said. “The bill will not affect existing wells. However, any wells drilled after Jan. 1 of this year, including the well proposed in Brady Township, would not be allowed to accept the drilling waste.”
George’s legislation will also contain other water protection measures that will remain in effect after the moratorium expires.
For example, the bill includes a 2,000-foot setback from private water supplies, unless consent is granted by the owner of the private water well, as well as a 5,500-foot setback from public water supplies.
The bill bans the deep waste-disposal wells in floodplains and provides a 2,000-foot setback from trout streams and High Quality/Exceptional Value waterways.
To address the earthquake issues in Ohio, which have been blamed on injection wells near Youngstown, George included a provision in his bill that mandates a 2,000-foot setback from known geologic fault lines.
“Hydraulic fracturing fluid used in Marcellus shale drilling acts as a lubricant underground,” George said. “When this fluid is injected into the ground near fault lines, such as in Youngstown, it can trigger shifts in the ground that cause earthquakes.”
George said that similar to Youngstown, geologic fault lines run through the Brady Township area where a well has been proposed.
“Besides my setbacks from known fault lines, I place other restrictions that will make these wells safer overall,” George said. “Ohio has recently adopted new regulations to address this issue, and we should do the same.”
Other provisions include a continuous pressure monitoring system at the injection wells, automatic shut-off systems when the pressure exceeds its maximum level and electronic data recording systems for purposes of tracking all fluids brought to the well for injection.
“Communities cannot exist without fresh water,” George said. “We must do everything possible to ensure the integrity and protection of our drinking water supplies.
Marshall said that State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-75 of DuBois, has “co-sponsored” the legislation. It is currently before State Rep. Scott Hutchinson, R-64 of Butler/Venango, and the committee of environmental resources and energy.
“We’ll need a senate bill, too,” said Marshall. “We need support for this (legislation), and anything that might move this forward.”
Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen said the commissioners are not only 100 percent supportive of the oil and natural gas industry, but also of it being environmentally friendly and maintaining safe water sources for residents.
The commissioners agreed to support House Bill 2350 in writing a letter to the house committee. The letter will also be sent to Gabler, George and Hutchinson as well as State Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-25 of Brockway.
“We need to get this moving through to become law,” said Commissioner Mark B. McCracken.