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Friday, July 18, 2014

Organic farmer seeks to halt natural-gas facility

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM

A prominent area farmer is appealing for help to prevent a natural-gas compressor station from being sited next to his property.

Don and Becky Kretschmann have run their 80-acre organic Kretschmann Farm in Beaver County for 40 years, and their produce feeds hundreds of local households through a subscription program. But Don Kretschmann says that siting the proposed compressor station less than a half-mile from his fields would industrialize the rural setting, risk contamination of his crops, and generally threaten his business.

“It has us very nervous,” said Kretschmann in a phone interview yesterday. “People trust the integrity of that food. It’s as safe as you can get it. Even the perception or the suspicion can be a problem” if customers believe the food might be contaminated.

In addition to pollution from the compressor station itself, Kretschmann says he is concerned about increased truck traffic to and from the station. The road that accesses the proposed station is narrow and lightly traveled, he says.

The Pike Compressor Station is proposed by Cardinal PA Midstream, LLC. The siting must be approved by the New Sewickley Township board of supervisors.

Compressor stations pressurize gas from nearby wellsites so it can be sent through pipelines. Hundreds of such stations have been built in the region since the Marcellus Shale boom began, in 2008. Neighbors have complained about odor and noise, and researchers have found that compressor stations emit such pollutants as volatile organic compounds, benzene and other toxic chemicals.

The gas industry contends that living by compressor stations is safe.

Kretschmann says that while many of his neighbors have signed drilling leases, he and his wife have refused. He notes the irony that while some farmers sign leases because they are in bad shape financially, “Here is a farm that’s economically very viable” but “threatened by industrial use in an agricultural area.”

Kretschmann says another property adjacent to his hosted a well starting late last year, and that it caused light and noise pollution during the drilling phase.

Kretschmann, a former member of the New Sewickley board of supervisors, spoke against the compressor station at a July 3 municipal hearing. The issue was continued to July 23.

Kretschmann is asking his customers and others in the community to write to the township board in advance of that meeting to voice their concern. Emails can be sent to manager@newsewickley.com. Kretschmann requests that senders cc kretschmann@verizon.net

The New Sewickley Township municipal hearing is at 6:30 p.m. Wed., July 23, at the Big Knob Grange, 336 Grange Road, in Rochester, Pa.

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