NEGLEY - Middleton Township trustees are blocking Chesapeake Energy from accessing a planned oil and gas well on the Benner property near Justison Road.
Trustees Eldena Gearhart and Nancy Michaels this week approved canceling a road use maintenance agreement (RUMA) the board had previously approved for Justison Road. Canceling the agreement will bar Chesapeake access to the planned well as Justison is the only road available to that site.
The agreements require companies involved in the preparing and operation of drill sites to upgrade and maintain the roads being used to get to the sites and to resurface them when drilling is completed.
Gearhart told Brett Bankert, Chesapeake field representative for the county, the RUMA is being canceled because they were not pleased with the condition of Vale Road.
Earlier in the year the board approved a RUMA for the company to use roughly seven-tenths of a mile of Vale Road to get to a well and water impoundment site in that area.
Bankert said the stone road was recently chipped and sealed by the company as planned.
Trustees said they are pleased with the road, although they were not happy with how long the company was taking to address the issue.
Fiscal Officer Robert Chapman also said they don't like all the dust kicked up by the trucks using the road.
Gearhart explained the board doesn't want to go through with the agreement for Justison Road because "we are no longer willing to go through what we went through on Vale Road We don't want to have the potholes, the neighbors complaining, the dust."
She also said the board wants all roads used by the company to be blacktopped as opposed to chipped and sealed.
"Our problem is, doing the chip and seal; (it) won't take the truck traffic. Unless there's an awfully good base on it, it's not going to hold up," she said.
Bankert said he believed it would hold up but that he would talk to his supervisors about having the roads blacktopped. He noted the agreements call for the roads to be repaired using their original material, however.
Gearhart and Michaels said the board may rescind the RUMA cancellation later if the company agrees to provide a plan for the maintenance and repair of Justison Road prior to any drilling activity in that area and that the road be blacktopped.
Michaels said if blacktop is not permitted, the company should include an addendum in the agreement that it will be responsible for any additional repairs should the chip and seal not hold up.
"We're not trying to hold you up, we're just trying to make sure things are right," she said.
The board, with the exception of Trustee Timothy Pancake who was absent, then approved a RUMA for Scotts Mill Road. The company had wanted the agreement signed last month, but the board refused since it called for the township department to be on call for maintenance in the event that Chesapeake is unable. They had told Bankert that with only two full-time men the department did not have the manpower and ability do that and requested it be amended to read the crew would be responsible "at their discretion."
Bankert presented the amended agreement to them on Monday. The company will use the road to access the planned well on property owned by James and Joyce Bailey.
He said progress on the well has been "postponed for now" and was unable to provide a reason for the delay.