UPDATE! PA Driller cancels permit.


Driller cancels permit, October 21, 2010

A gas driller has given up the fight in Nockamixon.

Arbor Resources has withdrawn its state permit to drill in Nockamixon, seemingly ending its battle to begin exploratory drilling for natural gas in the Upper Bucks community.

The news was met with a cheer from residents at the supervisors meeting Wednesday night.

The Michigan-based gas drilling company notified Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection of its decision to cancel the permit Monday, said Nockamixon attorney Jordan Yeager.

"The bottom line is that they're no longer in the position to pursue their drilling in the township," he said.

It's a significant victory for township supervisors and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which have been battling with Arbor for years as to whether the drilling company should have to abide by local zoning and regulations.

Though Nockamixon does not sit atop the Marcellus Shale region, like much of Pennsylvania, it's believed that there is an untapped hot spot of natural gas in the rock thousands of feet below rural Upper Bucks.

In its efforts to drill for the energy source in Nockamixon, Arbor had argued that the state's Oil and Gas Act trumps all local laws.

The gas company's decision this week to void its permit to drill in Nockamixon also voids Arbor's status as "grandfathered" under old Delaware River Basin Commission regulations, said Yeager.

The DRBC oversees the water quality and quantity of the Delaware River, which supplies 15 million people with drinking water each day.

Arbor was among a few drilling companies that were granted the OK to begin exploratory drilling along the watershed. Before all gas drilling along the Delaware River was put on hold in June, the DRBC had only placed a moratorium on operational drilling, but not on exploratory gas wells.

Advertisement The township had been awaiting a special hearing before a DRBC judge, protesting Arbor's exception to the rules. Now, the matter will likely be canceled, said Yeager.

If Arbor renews its efforts to drill in Nockamixon anytime in the future, it will have to start back at square one, said Yeager.

However, for the 300 homeowners who signed leases with the drilling company, though the prospect of natural gas royalties is likely dead, their contracts are very much alive, and likely will be until Arbor chooses to return to Upper Bucks or cancels the leases.

Though no drilling has been done, Arbor's first well pad is already in place at the Cabot property on Beaver Run Road. Since the permit to drill at the Cabot site has suddenly been withdrawn, the DEP will with likely order the well pad to be removed and site remediation, said Yeager.

Across the region, environmentalists and a growing number of concerned residents feared that natural gas drilling's "fracking" process would poison or deplete Upper Bucks' fragile groundwater supply and the Delaware River watershed.

"It's wonderful news," said Todd Stone, president of the Gallows Run Watershed Association and a member of Nockamixon Township's Environmental Advisory Committee.