FRACKING in Pennsylvania, Butler County (Just North of Pittsburgh)

Below is a typical monthly roundup of events relating to Fracking published by the excellent local anti-fracking group Marcellus Outreach Butler (www.marcellusoutreachbutler.org) – it reflects daily life in an active fracking area. By understanding what life is like in these damaged communities, we will be better informed when it comes to dealing ‘again’ with the pressures of shale gas extraction in Co. Fermanagh.

Butler County Well Count

  • Total Number of Wells: 625
  • Total Well Pads: 205

Around the County

CONNOQUENESSING TWP(Township)—Connoquenessing Elementary School was evacuated on April 17 due to an odor of natural gas in the building. The students were evacuated at 10 AM and sent to the Intermediate High School in Butler Township. Peoples TWP was called to find the source of the leak, but inspectors were unable to find any leaking gas lines in or around the building. Peoples blamed the odor on nearby fracking operations and declared that it was safe (?) for students to return to the school, which they did at 1:15 PM. The distinct rotten-egg smell of natural gas is not naturally present in the gas, but rather is a chemical called mercaptan that is added before being sent into residential lines. However, Duquesne University biologist Dr. John Stolz says that some of the compounds present in “wet gas,” which is what lies under Butler County, give off a similar odor, so it is more than plausible that fracking is responsible. Rex Energy’s Shipley well pad is located a mere 1,750 feet from the school in Connoquenessing borough.

BUTLER TWP—Residents have recently reported hearing loud noises, seemingly coming from nowhere. Following an on-the-ground report on April 14, it was determined that the noise is emanating from the AK Steel A pad on Schaffner Road, located between the AK Steel plant and the Highfield neighborhood. The XTO pad, located on a property zoned single-family residential and surrounded by houses, is currently in the fracking stage. Residents over a mile away can hear it, likening the sound to a freight train going past. The noise is still occurring as of this writing.

PROSPECT BORO—XTO applied for permits for the first well pad within borough boundaries on April 18. The Coretsky well pad would be located on Crown Hill Road, just west of Route 528, south of the intersection of 528 and 488. If approved, the well pad would house two wells. It will be less than one mile from Moraine Elementary School and downtown Prospect.

WINFIELD TWP—Two new well pads were permitted in the township at the end of March, both on Marwood Road. The first, permitted on March 21, is the PER W34 pad, located just east of Spiker Road on Marwood. It will house one well. The other, permitted on March 23, is the PER W32 pad located on Bear Creek Road just south of Marwood and will house two wells. Both pads belong to Penn Energy.

SLIPPERY ROCK TWP—MOB hosted an electric car show on April 21 as part of the Macoskey Center’s Earth Fest at the center on SRU’s campus. Throughout the day, a Chevrolet Volt, a Chevrolet Bolt, a Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, a Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid minivan, a Tesla Model 3, two Tesla Model S’s, and even a 2003 Toyota RAV-4 EV were on hand for visitors to sit in and learn more about.


Across Penn’s Woods

COUDERSPORT—JKLM Energy has withdrawn from a controversial frack-waste treatment plant at the headwaters of the Allegheny River in Potter County. The Pittsburgh-based company had proposed a plant next to the Coudersport municipal sewage plant that would have “treated” wastewater produced by fracking, and then release it into the Allegheny River, which at that point is no wider than our own Connoquenessing Creek. The Allegheny turns north and heads into New York for about 15 miles before turning back into Pennsylvania. The Seneca Nation reservation occupies almost the entire length of the New York part of the river, and they objected fiercely to the plan, which would have threatened their drinking water. JKLM’s voluntary withdrawal came after Coudersport borough council rejected the plan. Read more here.

PENN-TRAFFORD—A citizen’s group in Westmoreland County has filed suit to reverse a zoning ordinance passed in 2016 by Penn Township, Westmoreland County that designated special “mineral extraction overlays.” Protect PT has challenged the ordinance in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees environmental rights to the citizens of the commonwealth. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an environmental engineer from Cornell University, was among the witnesses called by Protect PT, as were Dr. Ned Ketyer, a Pittsburgh pediatrician, and Tom Daniels, a land use expert from the University of Pennsylvania. Read more here.

LANCASTER—A new Franklin & Marshall College/StateImpact Pennsylvania poll shows that more people are opposed to fracking in Pennsylvania than in 2014. The new poll shows that 50 percent of respondents, no longer a majority, support fracking in Pennsylvania, while 42 percent do not. However, 55 percent said that the environmental risks of fracking outweighed its potential economic benefits, while only 30 percent said the economic benefit outweighed the risk. Read more here.

MARIETTA—704 pounds of dynamite was stolen from a construction site for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lebanon County. Williams Partners, which is building the highly-contested pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania, reported that 16 cases of dynamite and 400 blasting caps were stolen during the weekend of April 14-15. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is investigating and has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Read more here.


See the Marcellus Outreach Butler website for much more detailed information on the effects of unconventional shale gas extraction and fracking in Pennsylvania.