After a lengthy debate and a nearly 40-minute executive session to address legal questions, the Lycoming County Planning Commission voted 5-2 Thursday to table approval of a gas compressor station in Gamble Township until its August meeting.
Voting in favor were Howard Fry, Jim Dunn, Carl Nolan, Bill Parsons and Michael Sherman. Cindy Bower and George Logue Jr. abstained. Joseph Neyhart and Chris Keiser were absent.
Atlas Resources LLC was seeking approval of the station to be built partly on property owned by Thomas and Beth Stubler. It would be sized for two compressor engines, although Carla Sikowski, of engineering firm Civil and Environmental Consultants Inc., said that it's likely to only operate one.
The half-acre station pad also would be accessed by an existing road on the Stubler's property, an old logging trail that would be widened to 20 feet and lined with packed gravel.
The plan also included a driveway slope waiver request, asking that the proposed 8 percent maximum be raised to 25 percent, due to the site's location and existing road alignment.
The road itself was the first point of contention for Dunn, who questioned whether or not emergency vehicles would be able to access the pad in case of a fire or other emergency.
"If it's only gravel, and such a steep slope, those fire trucks and such would never be able to make it up there," he said. "Especially not when they hit the driveway."
Sikowski assured the board that the company had spoken with the county's Emergency Management Agency and said that there was no reason to believe that the slope of the road and driveway would affect the ability of emergency vehicles to access the site.
However, Dunn raised another question when he learned that the proposed road would be between 700 and 800 feet long, accessible from Southard Road.
He had serious concerns that a road of such length and slope would negatively impact existing streams and culverts, and was frank in his unease with the plan.
"I find it very, very hard to believe that this is the only option to access this site," he said.
Sikowski said that the Department of Environmental Protection had signed off on the proposal, which was required of Atlas as part of the permitting process, but Dunn wasn't convinced that was enough proof.
"I want to see some documentation that the DEP approved this because it was the only option," he said.
"I don't believe that they'll give you that kind of paperwork," Sikowski said. "They only approve a plan that we bring before them - they don't tell us other options. But I can tell you that they wouldn't have approved this if they didn't think it was a viable plan with as little environmental impact as possible."
After nearly an hour of discussion, Logue called an executive session, after which it was determined to table the approval until the next meeting.
The move would give Atlas a chance to provide what solicitor J. Michael Wiley called "more supplemental information."
The next Planning Commission meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Pine Street Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.