The New Sewickley Township supervisors have approved a Marcellus Shale gas compressor station near the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm, one of the region’s oldest and most successful Community Supported Agriculture operations.
Don Kretschmann and his wife, Becky, who started the 80-acre organic farm 35 years ago, opposed the siting of the Cardinal Midstream compressor station in the agricultural area because of the risks from air emissions and spills to their farm and its produce and its impact on the rural and largely agricultural community.
The supervisors voted, 4-0, Thursday evening to approve the Cardinal Midstream application for conditional use of the agriculturally zoned land for the four-unit Pike Compressor Station, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh in Beaver County.
Mr. Kretschmann said the supervisors’ decision can be appealed within 30 days to the Beaver County Common Pleas Court, and that the family is “strongly considering” doing so.
“Our farm is transitioning to the next generation, and we don’t want to have this big cloud hanging over us,” he said. “We know it could be a long slog with an uncertain outcome, but the gas industry has had its way everywhere, and somewhere, sometime, somebody has got to stand up.”
Mr. Kretschmann said the family would probably meet this weekend to decide about the appeal.
“I feel the decision was very well thought out and followed the letter of the law. The ordinance and everything was handled very well,” said Duane Rape, the supervisors board chairman, who abstained from the deliberations and the vote because of potential conflict-of-interest concerns.
Mr. Rape and 677 other landowners in the township have leased the shale gas under their property. Those leases, which PennEnergy Resources LLC holds, comprise 15,517 acres, or 71 percent of the township.
Casey Nikoloric, a Cardinal spokeswoman, said the Dallas-based company is “reviewing those conditions in detail to ensure that we are rigorous about meeting them.”
She said the compressor station could be operating by May if it receives needed state Department of Environmental Protection permits.
It will initially house four 1,340-horsepower compressors that would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and emit 78 tons of nitrogen oxides, 24 tons of volatile organic compounds and 98 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Cardinal has said it plans to eventually double the number of compressors at the site to eight.
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are building blocks of ground-level ozone, the principal component of smog, which can cause a variety of breathing and lung problems and interfere with plant growth and development.
The permit decision capped a tumultuous, emotional process that included township zoning commission recommendations limiting the compressor’s footprint and nine and a half hours of public hearings that hundreds of people attended.
Prior to the vote, a 13 page “Findings of Fact” document was read, laying out 25 conditions for development of the 46-acre site in the middle of the rural community.
In an email after the vote, Mr. Kretschmann said siting of the “heavy industrial use in a ... top agricultural district is what rips at our hearts.”
In the weeks before the vote, Mr. Kretschmann said the compressor station threatened the future organic certification of his business, which now supplies weekly boxes of vegetables, herbs and fruit to more than 1,000 customers in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.
More than 200 of those customers sent letters to the supervisors asking them to deny the permit.
James Marino, one of the Kretschmann’s customers, said in an email the supervisor’s action puts all 1,000 “farming partners” subscribed to the CSA at risk.
“It boggles my mind that the township doesn’t see the risk,” Mr. Marino wrote.
“Forget the letter of the law.
”If this family farm is lost, was it worth the amount of gas pumped out of there?”
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983. First Published August 15, 2014 12:00 AM