Gas drilling opponents in North East Township (Erie County), PA have won a small victory in forcing one driller to leave the area. Lake Erie Energy Partners completed just one of 11 planned wells in the Township, but they will walk away and not complete the other 10 because of a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing and because Township officials have reneged on a promise to the company.
John Sturgill, president of the company, said Friday that a proposed ban on the practice of hydrofracturing — a process that uses pressurized water and chemicals to release natural gas — left him little choice.
"You cannot drill a Medina well without it being fracked," he said. "The other thought is that (township supervisors) have made a decision to rescind a promise that we could use township road rights of way for our pipelines."
Sturgill said he has completed one well that did not need to be hydrofractured.
Sturgill said he already has contacted the landowners and informed them of his decision.
"I am not scared of the environmentalists," he said. "They can yell and scream all they want. The ones who really lose are the (people) who want (drilling). This is their God-given right to use their property in a way that benefits them, as long as it doesn’t hurt somebody else."
Sturgill said he lost a substantial amount of money on the aborted drilling effort. He said he will compensate farmers for site work he did on their property, and said he plans to restore any land he disrupted.
"It’s not [about] me," he said. "I will drill wells someplace else. This is about the farmer who could really use free gas. It’s about a farmer who could really use a royalty check coming to his house for the next 30 years."
Sturgill said he plans to hold on to his leases and might return to the township if the hydrofracturing ban is rejected.*
*Erie Times-News (May 28, 2011) – Lake Erie Energy Partners will cease drilling operations in North East Township