Drilling Prep Could Begin Next Week Near Pittsburgh International Airport

April 25--Work to build well pads on Pittsburgh International Airport property could start next week now that Findlay officials have authorized it, a Consol Energy official said on Thursday.

Consol, which plans to drill 47 wells for natural gas at the airport as part of a $500 million deal, will drill its first well by July or August, said Joe Zoka, asset manager for gas at the Cecil-based company.

"There's been a lot of planning over the last year, and we tried to be in a position to start soon after approval," Zoka said.

The start date shortens the amount of time the Allegheny County Health Department can monitor air quality before activity begins, said Jim Thompson, the department's director of environmental health. The department started in late March. Thompson wanted to collect a year's worth of data before construction started.

"If we do find something during drilling, we would still have some doubt if it was there before," Thompson said.

Findlay supervisors voted 2-1 on Wednesday to approve permits. They imposed 23 conditions on Consol. Board Chairman Tom Gallant voted against the permits. He wants Consol to move well pad No. 2 farther from the Imperial Pointe neighborhood. Some residents complained that the pad is too close to their houses. The pad is about 1,180 feet from the closest house.

"What we've done here is move forward in a positive way," Supervisor Raymond Chappell said of the permits. "I have never seen any place that has put those conditions on a company."

The conditions prohibit construction work at night and on Sundays and holidays, mandate regular community meetings and updates, establish a complaint line, provide training to Findlay police and firefighters, and require Consol to build a wall or fence to hide two well pads from I-376.

Consol cannot use blinking lights on its well equipment and must control the beeping noise from trucks backing up if residents complain. The supervisors allowed Consol to have as many as 30 people per well living in temporary housing during operations despite a township ordinance against it.

Zoka said Consol is still reviewing the conditions imposed by the supervisors but did not anticipate any changes to its plans.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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