PA Town Grapples with Setbacks – from Bore Hole or Edge of Pad?

The issue of “setbacks” has always been a contentious issue when it comes to oil and gas drilling. A setback is the distance from a well to nearby structures–like water wells, homes, schools, whatever. In Pennsylvania the state law requires a minimum of 500 feet between a well and nearby structures. But here’s the thing: Do you measure the distance (as drillers maintain) from the bore hole drilled into the ground? Or from the edge of the well pad? A pad is typically 3-5 acres, and if you measure from the edge of the pad, the “actual” distance from the well to a nearby structure may be 1,000 feet instead of 500 feet. Some argue that measuring from the edge of the pad makes more sense–to protect nearby residents from noise, lights, air emissions, etc. But drillers in some locations are hamstrung, especially if the the location where they drill is on a slope or other tough terrain. Measuring from the edge of the pad may mean not drilling at all. It is that very issue now being debated in Murrysville, in Westmoreland County, PA (near Pittsburgh). It is a wisdom of Solomon kind of issue…

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