Marcellus and Utica shale: Pa. DEP postpones shale gas hearing

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Western Pennsylvania landowners have a little more time to learn more about

Hilcorp Energy Co.’s plan to change a well spacing order in Lawrence and Mercer counties.

Well spacing

Hilcorp Energy Co. is applying for a well spacing order that establishes four gas well drilling units on 3,267 acres to drill into the Utica shale formation in Pulaski Township in Lawrence County and Shenango Township in Mercer County.

Under the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Law of 1961, when a spacing order application is submitted, an administrative hearing must be held prior to approval.
DEP had submitted a request for public input, and its hearing officer ordered there be two hearings — an administrative hearing and an additional public hearing. The first hearing was set for March 25.

Hearings delayed

However, the DEP announced March 21 that a delay was requested by both Hilcorp Energy Co. and the DEP to ensure all people affected were notified of the hearings.

DEP recently discovered that certain property owners within the area of the requested order were not included in the application materials submitted to the department.

The hearing process has effectively been delayed until further notice. The dates, times and locations of the postponed hearing sessions will be determined at a later date.

“DEP has made it clear that we intend to properly inform the public of the hearing process in order to garner necessary public input on this important matter,” DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Perry said.
“As soon as we discovered that some of the residents within the proposed spacing units had not been identified by Hilcorp in its application, we began pursuing a delay to ensure that all potentially impacted residents would have ample time to be informed and prepared for the hearing.”

200 property owners

While Hilcorp identified more than 200 of the property owners in the area, the company did not provide information for those property owners who have not entered lease agreements or for the other operator that has property interests in the area subject to the requested order.

“It has been our position that all potentially impacted homeowners and other operators deserve to receive personal notification well in advance of the hearing proceedings,” Perry said.
“Postponing the hearing ensures that all property owners, operators and interested persons will be given proper notice.”

Based on a list provided by Hilcorp, DEP sent two rounds of letters detailing the hearing process to more than 200 property owners in the area covered by the application. When DEP learned that certain property owners and operators had not been previously identified or provided notice, DEP immediately mailed them notice.

Ohio

Right over the line in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating a series of earthquakes earlier in March near Lowellville, Ohio, near Hilcorp Energy Co. shale wells.

At least five minor earthquakes were reported by the U.S. Geological Survey service.

The ODNR geologists have been working to analyze the seismic data gathered.

“ … Out of an abundance of caution we notified the only oil and gas operator in the area, and ordered them to halt all operations until further assessment can take place.
“ODNR is using all available resources to determine the exact circumstances surrounding this event and will take the appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety,” said Mark Bruce, ODNR public information officer, in a written statement.

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