BROCKWAY — Wednesday, the Shale debate came into clear focus as residents of the Borough of Brockway expressed their concerns about a proposal by Flatirons Resources to drill a well in the borough.
Residents were given this opportunity at a public meeting that took place at the urging of Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25), state Rep. Sam Smith (R-66) and state Rep. Matt Gabler (R-78).
Scarnati said the purpose of the meeting was to provide local residents — and those who depend on the Brockway Watershed for service — the opportunity to ask questions directly of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Flatirons, and to get answers.
"We need to have facts, and we need to have guidance," he said. "And that's what I'm here to provide you with tonight ... but I am going to look all of you in the eye, and I'm going to defend the fact that we have a public hearing here — this isn't happening in every community around the state. (Flatirons Resources and DEP) didn't need to come. I wanted them here."
Brockway is very familiar with Flatirons Resources, which has has already drilled a well in the borough, but recently submitted a proposal that is "administratively and technically complete" to drill a second well.
That second well is a point of contention for many borough residents.
According to Craig Lobins, DEP Northwest Regional director for the Oil & Gas Program, a decision has not yet been made on whether or not the proposal by Flatirons Resources will be approved, and it will not be made until the program has the opportunity to hear concerns of local residents.
At the meeting, many residents asked Flatirons Resources why it decided to drill a well in Rattlesnake Creek in the first place, since it is considered to be a high-quality reservoir.
High-quality reservoirs, or water sheds that are in "pristine" condition, are not allowed to be deteriorated.
Scott Perry, deputy secretary for the Oil and Gas Program, said protecting water quality — and particularly protecting drinking water supply — is most important to him, and believes Flatirons Resources has adhered to state law.
"We've had a lot of oil and gas wells that have been developed near pristine streams and rivers," he said. "I don't care if it's the Susquehanna River, or my favorite trout stream or the Brockway Municipal Authority Water Supply, I don't want to see anything getting into the waters of the Commonwealth."
House Bill 1950, which was urged on by Scarnati, was recently passed Gov. Tom Corbett, which imposes an impact fee on Marcellus Shale gas extraction.
But to some residents, this is not enough, and they would like to see no drilling at all in the borough's watershed.
"I have worked diligently along with Sen. Gabler and (House) Speaker Smith to make sure we got something passed," Scarnati said. "And if anyone wants us to take the next six months to work on something we can't get passed, that's a waste of time. We got House Bill 1950 passed that has some of the most strict environmental components in the whole nation put into it. If I could have drawn a map and said, 'Don't drill in the watershed, and put that in the bill, I would have done it, but you can't get that passed."