JAY TOWNSHIP - With Jay Township seeing an increasingly and particularly strong presence of Marcellus Shale activity, how the community could best protect its interests as the gas industry continues its proliferation in the area was a topic of discussion at Thursday night's meeting of the board of supervisors.
Resident Bob Coppolo said that there are currently 26 oil and gas wells on Jay Twp. watersheds and "of that, 17 are active and there are three Marcellus wells, there are nine wells in the area that are plugged...I think we can all anticipate in the future that there are going to be a lot more well permits issued," Coppolo said.
Coppolo pointed to communities like Fayette, Pa. which have recently undertaken efforts to enforce local ordinances on gas companies and attempt to regulate what is a relatively unregulated industry at the moment. Coppolo said that while Jay Twp. residents do not necessarily have the same resources as the areas referenced or those needed to engage gas companies in litigation but added that the community should do everything within its power to exert their rights.
"These areas are affluent areas, in other words these people have money and they can hire attorneys to deal with it. In our location there's not that much disposable income to challenge these guys...We as a community need to step and do what needs to be done here and do our best...if you don't give it a shot you're going to have nothing," Coppolo said.
Supervisor Fran Gustafson agreed with Coppolo and said that the township needs to pay the necessary attention to the issue.
"The gas industry is going to overrule us if we don't watch what we're doing," Gustafson said.
Coppolo said he was concerned with what he perceived as the board having taken a passive role in addressing the issue. Gustafson said he was willing to do everything in his power to address the issue but added that he is unsure of what recourse the board has in the matter.
"Right now they're here and I don't know what you could do," Gustafson said.
Coppolo said that the first step would be the establishment of the board's presence at the source water protection meetings.
"These [board of supervisors] are the three highest officials and that would lend a lot of credence to it," Coppolo said. When Gustafson said he often could not attend water source protection meetings due to conflicts with his work schedule, Coppolo pointed to the fact that there are two other board members capable of attending those meetings.
Gustafson said that he attends CARE groups and will request the other board members do the same in order to "ask and see what we can do and try to stay on top of this thing, because they [gas companies] got us over a barrel."
Coppolo said it is important that the community band together on the issue to protect their interests which he added are not the interests of the gas companies.
"Some hot shot from Houston all he sees is a dollar figure and a hundred million cubic feet a day out of that well. He doesn't care about our drinking water...I don't think anybody wants any contamination or loss of drinking water in the community," Coppolo said.