ADAMS TWP — The planning commission urged Rex Energy officials to hold a public forum to answer the questions of nervous neighbors who live near three new shale gas wells.
Rex officials presented plans on Monday for the well pad on the Wilson property at Three Degree and List Hill roads at a conditional use application before the planning commission.
Rex hoped the commission would vote to recommend the supervisors approve the conditional use, but the concerns and questions shared by a group of citizens caused the commission to pass the matter on to the supervisors without a recommendation.
The commission members also said they were reluctant to vote for approval because they had only received the information on the plans earlier on Monday.
Several residents expressed their concerns to the commission or posed questions to Rex Energy officials, seven of whom attended the meeting.
Tammy Crouthamel said her small family farm abuts the Wilson unit. She is concerned that the free-range chickens her family raises to produce organic eggs will be affected by the shale gas extraction process.
“Farmers need clean air, clean water and clean soil to produce healthy food,” Crouthamel said after the meeting.
She said she appreciated the questions the commission members asked the Rex representatives, including their plans for air quality monitoring.
Before voting, planning commission member Tom Franceschina urged the Rex officials to hold an informal public forum where residents could ask questions.
Initially Mike Vennum, the attorney representing Rex Energy, said all state requirements had been met or exceeded, and residents could call Rex Energy if they have questions.
He said the state, not the township, is the governing entity for shale gas drilling.
“If (the residents) have a problem with that, they can go to the (state Department of Environmental Protection,)” Vennum said.
But Franceschina said another driller held meetings in Middlesex Township and in other municipalities to share information with the residents living in the area of prospective wells.
“I think there needs to be some education here,” Franceschina said. “Everyone needs to be informed.”
Resident Dona Gartrell said Rex’s reluctance to hold a forum for the property owners in the neighborhood of the well made her feel like the company had something to hide.
“He makes us feel suspicious and uncertain, like there’s something going on,” Gartrell said.
Eventually, Vennum said Rex will hold some type of informational forum for residents in the near future.
After the meeting, Rex Energy spokesman John Sutter said the company has been more than transparent in other municipalities.
He said additional sound abatement walls and other measures above and beyond state requirements will be part of the Wilson well.
Resident and Moms Clean Air Force member Patrice Tomcik said after the meeting that she appreciated the planning commission’s concern for the residents.
“I felt the board was very interested in hearing what the people had to say,” Tomcik said.
A conditional use hearing before the supervisors is scheduled for Nov. 1 at the township building on Valencia Road.