West Deer rejects gas well amid growing opposition to fracking in Allegheny County | Environment | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

West Deer rejects gas well amid growing opposition to fracking in Allegheny County

On Dec. 15, 2021, West Deer Township in northern Allegheny County rejected a proposal by Olympus Energy LLC for one of two planned natural-gas well pads in the township. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously against the proposed well pad by a vote of 4-0.

Vice Chairwoman Beverly Jordan told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the Board of Supervisors rejected the proposal because it did not meet the municipal zoning code. “A well site must be 650 feet from a habitable or working building. In two areas, they did not meet that,” Jordan said.

Public hearings on the proposed well began in August 2021 and concluded in November. Opposition to the well pad was led by a community group, Concerned Residents of West Deer (CROWD), some of whom approve of fracking but don’t want to live near a well pad. Others raised concerns about the well’s environmental impact, health and safety, and heavy traffic in the area. Not all West Deer residents opposed the well, though. Many property owners saw the proposed well as an opportunity for economic growth.

West Deer is not the only municipality to reject a proposed well. In the last few years, at least three other Allegheny County municipalities have done the same.

Officials, environmental groups, and residents in Plum Borough are currently waging opposition to the construction of a second wastewater injection well. Wastewater injection wells are a way for energy companies to dispose of wastewater by injecting it into porous geological formations underground. Borough residents living near the site of the first well in Plum complained that their tap water became discolored with a foul taste and odor after the well began operating.

In October 2020, East Pittsburgh borough rejected a permit to drill a fracking well filed by Merrion Oil & Gas after sustained opposition from community groups including North Braddock Residents for Our Future.

In early 2019, Franklin Park voted against signing a lease with PennEnergy Resources that would permit natural gas extraction from a local recreation area.

Although it’s hard to draw conclusions from the various state fracking polls published in the last few years, it is clear that a sizable chunk of Pennsylvanians do support natural gas drilling, even as opposition appears to be growing. The most recent poll commissioned by Ohio River Valley Institute, found that 55% of Pennsylvanians support the immediate or eventual end of fracking and 31% favor maintaining fracking in the state.

According to State Impact Pennsylvania, there are currently 63 active well pads in Allegheny County, although fracking is much more prevalent in adjacent counties such as Washington and Westmoreland.

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