Wilmington’s proposed drilling rules require enclosed compressors

Wilmington Township supervisors will debate three oil and gas ordinance options Monday — all of them requiring compressor stations to be enclosed in buildings.

A special meeting to discuss proposed ordinances on hydraulic fracturing is set for 7 p.m. Monday at the township building at 669 Wilson Mill Road. No ordinance adoption is expected at that time, only discussion of the options and the setting of a date for a public hearing on the proposed law.

The three options that have been provided to supervisors by the township planning commission all require that compressor stations be enclosed “in a sound muffling building.” They also provide this requirement could be waived if the driller demonstrates that an alternative proposal can equally or better protect residents’ ” health, safety and welfare.”

Buildings around compressor stations to stifle sound had become an issue in Mahoning Township in 2015 and 2016 when some residents living near a Beard Road compressor station complained the noise was unbearable. Hilcorp Energy Co., which operates that compressor station, put sound-deadening drapes over the station but refused requests by the residents and township supervisors to enclose it in a building after some residents complained the drapes did not solve the problem.

Wilmington’s three ordinance options also tighten up requirements over the 2015 ordinance, which is being challenged in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. However, all the options continue to allow hydraulic fracturing in agricultural zones, which many residents had objected to at public meetings.

Monday’s meeting signals the end of more than a year of study of options on an oil and gas ordinance by township officials.

Some other proposed changes over the current ordinance are:

OPTION 1

•Increases setback distances from unconventional wells to unleased property lines from 50 to 250 feet.

•Increases setback distances from a compressor station to a property line from 200 to 500 feet; from a compressor well site to a property line from 50 feet to 250 feet; and from a compressor to a property line from 200 to 500 feet.

•Requires the well operator to “offer to meet” with school, municipal and public safety officials to develop a traffic management plan. The wording is a change from the 2015 ordinance, which says the operator “shall meet.”

•Leaves noise level limits remain the same as in 2015, but provides for enforcement, stating that if the township gets a noise complaint from a resident, the operator must have an independent party monitor noise and provide analysis to the township, then meet with resident and supervisors to discuss whether noise abatement measures are warranted.

•Allows supervisors to require escorts for trucks traveling during school bus operations.

•Prohibits open retention ponds for fracking waste and requires it be contained within a closed loop fluid containment system. However the closed loop requirement may be waived under certain conditions.

•Requires reduced emission completions systems as well as screening from adjoining properties and public streets by mounding soil, fencing or screen plantings.

•Requires the driller to pay for independent water testing of all existing watercourses and drinking water supplies, surface and groundwater within 2,500 feet of vertical well bores. The driller must also notify property owners within 2,500 feet that completion, drilling, stimulation or alteration of a well has occurred so that residents can track the 12 month period in which there is a presumption that the well operator is responsible for any pollution in the water. Pre and post drill test results must be provided to the DEP and the landowner.

•In locating a compressor station, a driller must seek to minimize disturbance to neighbors from noise. lighting noxious fumes, or other factors, as well as impacts on low lying areas that could be affected.

OPTION 2

•Contains all the provisions of Option 1, but required property line setbacks from a compressor station are reduced from 500 to 300 feet.

OPTION 3

•Contains all the provisions of Options 1 and 2, but provides a sliding scale of options on property line setbacks from a compressor station ranging from 200 to 500 feet.

•Also provides two options on setbacks from a compressor well site: either 200 or 250 feet.

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