NEW SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Marcellus drilling rigs and other shale gas infrastructure is dividing the residents of New Sewickley, Beaver County.
About 200 people turned out Wednesday night to a public hearing on a proposed compressor station. Shale gas drilling is relatively new in Butler and Beaver Counties, but wherever it goes, it stirs up public debate.
Organic farmer Don Kretschmann has been tilling his soil for 35 years but believes that the spread of natural gas drilling rigs, and especially the proposed compressor station, are a threat to his way of life.
“We have a history and a desire of the population to reside in a rural and an agricultural area, and that’s what’s being threatened,” Kretschmann said.
And though many who turned out Wednesday night at a public meeting agree — many don’t, including some fellow farmers who say leases and royalty checks are keeping them in business.
“They’ve come in and I’ve been able to upgrade equipment, fix some things up and they promised to keep everything right,” resident R.J. Kraus said at the meeting. “And you know what? This has been the best for me and I’m sure there is a lot of farmers out here who really need this.”
Compressor stations repressurize gas along pipelines on their way to market, and the company Cardinal Midstream is seeking township approval to put one in an empty field. At least one supervisor says they’re likely to get it, noting that most everyone has a lease with the gas company.
“We have 71 percent of our landowners in natural gas lease agreements,” supervisor Greg Happ said. “In order for them to make any profit on it, the gas has to go to industry and this is the only way it’s going to get there.”
But even folks with leases still want a say in what goes where.
“We signed off to drill, and we are OK with the drilling part. That’s going to happen, no matter what,” resident Chris Palmer said, “but this facility could be put somewhere else, not in a residential neighborhood.”