Mon Valley Residents Upset About Fracking Site in Their Community

Mon Valley Residents Upset About Fracking Site in Their Community

A proposed fracking site near U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson mill is causing problems for nearby residents. They have written two dozen statements and sent them to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) opposing Merrion Oil and Gas drilling a well next to the mill. Merrion Oil has a lease to drill but does not yet have state permits. At a meeting between Merrion Oil, U.S. Steel, and residents, 30 of the 200 people that showed up asked questions and voiced their opinions about the shale well going into their community. Residents were worried about drilling going on near their homes and the company polluting the surrounding area, especially since the air is already polluted from the coke and steel mills.

The proposed well site would have 21,000 people living within a two mile radius, making it important to be very careful. Even though Merrion Oil has extensive experience with conventional vertical wells in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, it has never drilled a horizontal shale gas well or drilled in Pennsylvania. Many of their wells are in urban neighborhoods of Farmington, New Mexico.  The company has tried to prove credibility by saying it is a longstanding family-owned company that is very reputable, and is committed to safety and to communities where it operates. This does not prevent accidents from happening though and does not mean that residents are any safer with them drilling by their houses.

U.S. Steel is excited for the site to be drilled because it can be a customer of gas produced by the well and it can control fuel costs, making its steel mills more competitive. The Erosion and Sedimentation permit filed with the DEP shows the site will be 13.4 acres. It will include an unconventional gas well pad, two access roads, five freshwater storage tanks, a 2,770 foot natural gas pipeline, and a 2,990 foot freshwater pipeline.

Megan McDonaugh, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, has called on DEP to suspend its review of the Merrion Oil permits because she says there are multiple deficiencies in the permit applications. She also claims that required conditional use permits were illegally issued by East Pittsburgh and North Versailles.

Penn Future, another environmental organization, launched its Toxic Neighbor campaign trying to get U.S. Steel to improve air pollution emissions from Clairton Coke Works. Residents are being urged to sign a petition or contact U.S. Steel directly about reducing air pollution from the country’s largest coking facility. They want the oldest and dirtiest coke batteries to be retired (numbers 1, 2, and 3), investments in upgrades to reduce emissions, and the company to be more transparent about the plant’s operations, especially during emergencies. With all the pollution put out by U.S. Steel, it needs to think twice about letting a company drill for shale gas on its property.

Don Hopey, “Contentious crowd rejects shale well proposal at Edgar Thomson mill site” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 28, 2019). [Link]

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