Inflection presents case for new gas well site on township road

Loyalsock Township’s conditional-use hearing for Inflection Energy’s application to construct a gas well site at 515 Hepburn Hill Road began with the applicant’s presentation at the fire hall Wednesday night.

Geologist Tom Gillespie, Inflection Energy’s director of health safety and environment, opened the company’s presentation with an overview of company practices and policies, as well as the impact of its work on the community and environment in regard to building, operating and maintaining a gas well site.

Gillespie said the natural gas development company follows core principles of low-impact land development. This means well sites are integrated into existing typography, forest clearing is minimized and Inflection disrupts wildlife as little as possible, as well as other means to conserve the site’s natural features.

Inflection’s first witness also laid out the phases a well site goes through in its 30- to 50-year lifespan. Production is the phase that natural gas flows from deep wells into underground pipelines. Construction, according to Gillespie, lasts about six to eight months. However, this is not a constant flow of work. There are episodes of activity and non-activity, he said.

Gillespie spoke at length on the topic of environmental protection, specifically Loyalsock Creek and the stormwater management and antidegredation rules he said Inflection follows.

The third phase is completion, when the hydraulic fracturing takes place. During his presentation, Gillespie stated that hydraulic fracturing cannot contaminate the township’s drinking water.

When the township had the opportunity to address the witness, Charles Greevy, solicitor, asked the geologist to repeat and specify this, citing a concern due to past problems communities have dealt with due to hydraulic fracturing.

“When you say that fracking will not be damaging streams, ground water or drinking water, you said it cannot affect that. Are you saying it is not allowed to do it or it’s impossible to contaminate a drinking source,” Greevy posed.

“The actual hydraulic fracturing process itself, No. 1, is not allowed to, and, No. 2, cannot actually do that. It is not possible,” Gillespie responded. “The problems that have happened in the industry in the past have occurred as a result of the former construction methods of the vertical section of older oil and gas wells.”

The witness cited former practices when cementing around the steel casing pipes as the culprit, a problem that no longer exists with current practices.

Gregg Saunders, regulatory and construction engineer for Inflection Energy, also represented the applicant with a presentation, arguing that the company is complying with the conditional-use zoning ordinance criteria.

Saunders read through the township’s ordinance requirements and explained how Inflection Energy would meet each one.

The concern the supervisors expressed when addressing Saunders was the fact that there is school bus traffic on roads that Inflection said it will use to access the proposed site.

Saunders said a study had not been done, but if the township wanted plans put in place for construction traffic to work around school bus traffic during the times it would come down roads such as Hepburn Hill and Walters, that could be done.

The conditional-use hearing will continue at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the fire hall.