About a dozen St. Marys officials, outfitted with baggy blue jumpsuits, earplugs and white plastic hard hats, recently visited a Seneca Resources well pad on a wooded hilltop to see what fracking is all about.
This part of Pennsylvania, about 120 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Elk County, has been relatively untouched by shale drilling. But people see it coming in two test wells Seneca has there now, with more wells in the future.
The usual characters are at play: Drillers promising money, jobs and a seat at the table; residents with concerns about the changes coming to their quiet town of about 13,000; and local officials with some power over where drilling occurs.
That power was restored last year when portions of Act 13, the state’s law governing oil and gas drilling, were thrown out by the state’s Supreme Court. Previously, Act 13 had created statewide rules that allowed gas development in all zoning districts, as long as certain criteria were met.