Like land use, making pro-gas political statements is within a town’s rights. And the Joint Land Owner’s Committee is encouraging towns to do so. But the impacts of drilling don’t stop at municipal borders. That means that neighbors in the next town – even a town with a moratorium or a drilling ban – may feel the impacts of industrialized drilling.
A couple weeks ago I asked Don Barber, supervisor for the Town of Caroline what it’s like sharing a border with a “pro-drilling” town. Last March the Caroline town board passed a moratorium, and tonight they’re considering a ban.
“We anticipate that drilling activity will take place around us,” says Barber. The moratorium and ban effort are to allow the town more time to “address a number of impacts that the SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) doesn’t address.” A big concern for Barber is road preservation. Most wells will be sited off a town road, he says. So those roads will see more traffic than ever before – traffic that the roads were not designed to handle.
Caroline also wants to look at site plan reviews, as drilling creates a lot of ancillary activities: transfer stations for drilling wastes and materials, gravel pits, staging areas and more. “These will be changes to agricultural land,” says Barber. “Our site plan review process needs to ensure that any development is done in a way that preserves the town’s character.”
Another big concern is groundwater protection. Whether there’s drilling in town or frack trucks passing through, there are many opportunities for spills and accidents, says Barber. So Caroline is developing an aquifer protection plan.
But part of Caroline shares an aquifer with Candor, a town that just last month passed a “pro-drilling” resolution. Drilling activity in Candor could potentially affect the water that Caroline residents drink, says Barber. “But there’s not anything we can do about it.”
As if to underscore this sort of quandary, some residents in Great Bend Township, PA found their water affected by drilling the next town over. The well is located in Liberty Township and feet from the township line. It is also about 2500 feet – a distance far enough that the affected residents were not notified about predrilling tests, nor did WPX, the drilling company, conduct any.
According to residents, their water turned black and stayed that way for at least three days. It eventually cleared up, but questions remain:
- Is there any contamination that residents should be aware of?
- If residents 2500 feet away are seeing effects, what about the protected aquifer areas along the Susquehanna River that is only 5200 feet away?
- And how far away is “safe”?