Plans are moving forward for a natural gas processing plant in Jackson Township that opponents of Marcellus Shale drilling have protested.
At Thursday’s meeting, Jackson Township supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use application for the Bluestone Gas Processing plant, which would extract natural gas liquids. Keystone Midstream LLC will be the plant’s owner; the company also owns a similar processing facility on Route 528 in Forward Township.The new facility would lease 71 acres along Hartmann Road and process Marcellus Shale gas for Rex Energy.
On Monday,members of Marcellus Outreach Butler attended a hearing on the application, with many of them speaking out against the plant’s proposed location about a mile from the Seneca Valleys School District’s secondary campus.
On Thursday, Supervisor Ron Lutz noted that the hearing only was for a conditional application, which addressed buffering, road maintenance and safety precautions among other things. It was not regarding a decision on whether the plant could enter the area.
“The purpose of a conditional hearing is we only can put conditions on them,” Lutz said. “We cannot deny them the legal right to be in the township.”
The Hartmann Road property is zoned for manufacturing, and Lutz said the plant fits the criteria for that use. Surrounding the property is a landfill, a dairy farm and the headquarters for Advanced Polymer Technology.
“As far as location, that basically is the best place to put it,” Lutz said.
Supervisor Jay Grinnell said the move to approve the plant’s application was not a personal one. He added that officials took residents safety concerns into account when making a decision.
“We heard your concerns on safety,” he said. “We can have conditions that regulate training and keeping emergency devices, but that’s as far as we’re allowed to go.”
Michael Brinkman, a Keystone Midstream representative, said construction could start during the summer. They hope to have the plant built by early spring 2012.
The plant is designed to process 50 million cubic feet of gas per day and would service several wells already in the area. It does not involve drilling. Brinkman said there would be several buildings on the site taking up about 31.2 acres worth of space. The remaining 40 acres of property are wetlands and not suitable for building.
In contrast to Monday’s packed hearing, only a handful of people in opposition to the plant attended Thursday’s meeting.
Diane Sipe, a Jackson Township resident and member of Marcellus Outreach Butler, said the board’s decision did not surprise her.
“It’s pretty much what I expected,” she said.
As what has been done in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y., where natural gas extraction has been banned, Sipe encouraged other communities to come together to voice opposition to Marcellus Shale activities.
“Others need to take a stand together and just say no,” she said.