Gas task force continues planning, mapping efforts

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Elk County Gas Task Force, task force chair and Elk County Commissioner June H. Sorg commended the group for continuing to meet even though Marcellus Shale activity has slowed in the area and said the group will be well-prepared as a result when activity ramps up again. "I just want to thank everybody because when you look back at all the months and years that we've been working together, it's really been a good group, and I'm grateful that everyone continues to participate because we’re here for the education and the knowledge, and I think that’s really important that we continue to work together in this,” Sorg said. Michael McAllister of Elk County’s Office of Emergency Services said Jefferson County has printed a pocket guide entitled “Emergency Response to Marcellus Shale Gas Incidents” that has useful information designed to assist emergency response personnel in responding to any incident involving Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations. He said Jefferson County already did a lot of the legwork and Elk County can adapt it for their use and distribute it. Sorg said funding is available for this purpose. Additionally, McAllister said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) is working on a "Hazardous Materials Unconventional Well Site Emergency Response Plan." Counties must participate in this, and funding is being provided to hire a consultant to write the plan. One of the businesses hired, MCM Consulting, is working on plans in Clearfield and Jefferson counties and will be coming to Elk County soon."What's nice is all our counties within our [six-county] region, they all touch Elk-- so it will be a large standard for all of our counties. All the information will also be transferred into our GIS (geospatial information systems) server [for our 911 centers], so all the counties can have immediate access to it," McAllister said. "Some of the standards that they're putting in, is, some counties address the well site-- the pad itself-- other counties address the entrance off the road. The state's coming back recommending that both have an address, so that's the standard that they're trying to push across so we have that ability, so if it's an incident in Clearfield, Jefferson, Elk, there's a a standard on how things are addressed, how the plans are written, because we all know that if we would ever have a major event, it's no longer a one-entity response-- it's a group response."McCallister said at the last meeting of the region's County Emergency Management Terrorism Task Force, Jake Moore of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) made a presentation introducing everyone to source water protection plans.