Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Grant Township continues fight against plan to store drilling waste

by on March 20, 2017 10:57 AM
Marion Center, PA

EAST RUN — Officials in Grant Township have continued their fight to halt plans for disposal of natural gas well drilling waste in a depleted gas well in the township.

The township has filed a lengthy objection to the Pennsylvania General Energy Company injection well permit application at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The township is in the fourth year of its effort to block the PGE plan to dispose waste fluids from Marcellus well drilling operations in Pennsylvania at what is known as the Yanity 1025 well near East Run.

Grant Township, its residents and local community groups, with support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, has appealed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state DEP to prevent PGE from starting an injection well.

Officials at PGE this morning declined to comment on the objections, citing a policy of steering from statements on matters in active litigation. They said they have not seen a copy of the objections.

The municipal supervisors enacted a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance in 2014 to establish local authority to maintain clean air, land and water, and prohibit activities that might harm the environment. The residents in November 2015 voted to change Grant to a home rule form of government, that local leaders said would strengthen its power to manage its land and waters.

While PGE has begun a challenge to the ordinance in court, arguing that the company has rights as a corporation to conduct business without interference, the company is awaiting a ruling from DEP on its 2015 application to begin the injection well.

Grant filed its 10-point objection to the application on March 7, asking the department to deny the permit on geological, safety, ecological “failures and deficiencies” and other grounds.

According to the township’s objections, the Yanity well was constructed to protect surrounding ground for extraction of natural gas at atmospheric pressure, but hasn’t been shown adequate to withstand injection of liquid waste at far greater pressure.

Grant claims the PGE permit application doesn’t disclose the underground formations that could allow brine and other fluids to seep through to nearby ground and surface water supplies. The objection also charges that the high-pressure injection could force the fluid to other abandoned wells that aren’t equipped to contain the waste, creating the risk of surface spills.

Two freshwater streams near the Yanity well have been declared “high priority” by state regulators, and the fish and other aquatic life could be killed by leaks or spills from the injection site — yet those streams aren’t mentioned in the application, officials said.

Grant also challenged the waste fluid analysis PGE included its permit application. The document mentions only one sample drawn from a single location — labeled as brine — but Grant argues that the salt and chemical contents of well waste fluids greatly vary, “with some Marcellus brines containing more than twice the salt content and three times the TDS (total dissolved solids) content” of the sample submitted with the application.

Municipal leader also charged in the objections that the PGE application “fails to include the barest minimum of an environmental emergency response plan, as required by the Federal Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania Clean Streams law, the Pennsylvania Storage tank Act and the Oil Pollution Act.”

The township officials asked DEP to find “by the failures described ... in its application and by its own record of recurring and willful violations, PGE is manifestly unworthy to operate the Yanity 2015 as an injection and storage well and should be denied the permit it seeks.”

The application now being considered is the second submitted by PGE for the Yanity site.

The original application was approved and subsequently revoked in 2015, and the current application has been under review almost two years.

DEP officials could not be reached this morning for comment on the status of the application.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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