Sign-On Letter to DEP re: Forced Pooling Hearing

The PA DEP published a notice announcing a public hearing on March 25th and 26th in Lawrence County on an application for Gas Well Spacing Units. It amounts to a hearing on forced pooling of private property. We had several issues with the notice and are asking organizations to sign the following letter that lays out those issues. We need to act quickly, so we need to turn the letter around by Friday or early Monday at the very latest. Please add your organization's name to the letter by filling out the form that follows the letter. Thank you!

March 12, 2013

Kurt Klapkowski, Director, Planning and Program Management
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson Office Building
400 Market St, 16th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17105

Dear Mr. Klapkowski:

The undersigned Pennsylvania residents and interested organizations look forward to providing feedback on the application for Gas Well Spacing Units submitted by Hilltop Energy Company. Because this will be the first hearing on the issue of Forced Pooling in the Utica Shale, it is a matter of great interest to many Pennsylvanians. We respectfully make the following requests for modification of the public participation process.

Need to Notify Affected Landowners
We understand that landowners who will be directly affected should this application be approved were not notified of the public hearing, something that must be remedied immediately.

Need for Evening Hearing
According to the public notice, the hearing is currently scheduled to occur over two days. On March 25th, the hearing is set to begin at 10 a.m. and, on March 26th, it is set to begin even earlier at 8 a.m. Daytime hearings would make it difficult, if not impossible, for members of the public interested in commenting and learning more about the application to participate. We strongly encourage the DEP to hold the hearing in the evening to ensure that the public is part of the public hearing.

Need for Comment Period
The notice makes no mention of a comment period. Members of the public who can’t attend a public hearing or wish to elaborate on the comments they make at the hearing deserve the opportunity to submit written comments on this application. We strongly encourage the DEP to establish a formal comment period of no fewer than 90 days.

Need for Ample Notice of Hearing Schedule
The public notice appeared only two weeks before the first hearing date. The public deserves to be notified farther in advance of such an important hearing so they can make arrangements to attend. We strongly encourage the DEP to postpone the hearing date and provide the public with at least 30 days’ notice.

Need to Provide Instructions for Verbal Testimony Given at Hearings
The public notice provides no instructions for members of the public wishing to testify at the hearing. If members of the public are required to register to testify in advance of the hearing or if they are required to submit a written version of their comments for the record when they testify, the public notice should state that. We strongly encourage the DEP to reissue a public notice providing all the necessary instructions and contact information the public needs.

Need for Venue with Adequate Seating
According to the staff at the Lawrence County Government Center, there are two conference rooms in the building. The one they refer to as the Penn State room holds 8 people. The larger conference room holds 20 people. If either room is the one referred to in the public notice, then we strongly encourage the DEP to move the hearing to a much larger facility that will accommodate the much larger crowd you can expect.

Satisfying these requests will ensure the public’s rightful place in the discussion of this application and the issues related to it.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


CC: Secretary Christopher Abruzzo

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