Kathy Helbling scoured the Internet to find the locations of nearby compressor stations so she could drive by to hear for herself the kind of noise it generated.
And she quickly discovered they all seemed to be tucked away in secluded, rural places – places down long winding roads and away from housing developments, schools and other high-traffic areas.
“It makes me wonder a lot,” she told the Cecil Township Board of Supervisors Monday during a public hearing regarding a proposed ordinance that would govern where compressor stations would be permitted.
While Helbling was describing the compressor station MarkWest is seeking a special exception to install on Coleman Road near state Route 980, the supervisors on Monday met to solicit public comment of the ordinance, which would allow the facilities as a conditional use in certain industrial districts.
And most residents who spoke at the meeting agreed: They believed that compressor stations should be allowed only in industrial districts – with many asking the board to restrict it to heavy industrial districts only.
But Cecil resident Elizabeth Cowden disagreed.
“I’ve tortured over this many sleepless nights,” she told them, adding that she had looked at a zoning map of the township and noted that there were few heavy industrial districts – and that they were small and close to densely populated areas.
After telling supervisors that compressor stations should be placed on large, rural, secluded areas, she suggested the board consider instead permitting the facilities as a conditional use in certain residential areas.
She also asked that supervisors assemble a 10-member volunteer board to study the best way to handle the ordinance governing compressor stations, volunteering to serve on the board herself.
Cecil fire Chief Dennis Bertie asked about the language in the ordinance, and if the distinction between compressor stations and natural processing stations would be made clear.
While MarkWest is now proposing to build a compressor station in the township that would force out water in the gas before transporting it, he asked what would preclude the company from later expanding to include other processing there if the language in the ordinance isn’t clear.
“That is a valid questions,” board Chairman Mike Debbis said. “We need to look into it.”
While solicitor John Smith said he couldn’t speak for the company, he said that because that kind of processing is completed at the nearby facility in Chartiers Township, it was “unlikely” that would happen at the proposed Cecil site.
Several residents had also asked if the township had taken any steps to hire an expert in the field who could review information provided by the natural gas industry and help them know what questions to ask during the conditional use process.
Debbis said that while the township has tried to find an engineering firm to come on board in some capacity, it is difficult to find a company who isn’t already on the natural gas company payroll.
“It sounds real simple but it’s not real simple,” he said, adding that the township had reached out to State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, to help in this capacity.
The board continued the meeting to 5:30 p.m. March 7.