Company seeking natural gas permits in garrett, allegany grade 6 electricity unit plan

Stephen Trujillo, of Tulsa-based Samson Resources Co., said the company plans to explore the outskirts of the Marcellus Shale with three wells in Garrett County and a fourth in Allegany County. Trujillo spoke at a June informational forum at Frostburg State University on the expansive Marcellus Shale, which encompasses portions of eight states from New York to Tennessee, including Maryland and West Virginia.

There is no timeline for the permits to be approved, Trujillo said, but the company has committed to conducting public forums in both counties prior to any final approval of the permits by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Trujillo said Samson operates exploratory wells in Somerset County, Pa., but realizes the company is now nearing the fringes of the Marcellus Shale.

There is no guarantee of success, Trujillo said. But if the wells indicate a large yield of natural gas, the company would move forward with a plan to have “several hundreds of wells” across some 70,000 acres in the state’s two westernmost counties over the next 10 years.

MDE spokesperson Jay Apperson said by e-mail that all four applications are under review to ensure administrative completeness. Once that part is completed, “notice will be provided to adjacent property owners” of the four affected parcels near Avilton, north of Frostburg, Piney Grove and, in Allegany County, National, between Carlos and Midland.

“Additional notice will be made by direct mail to interested parties and by newspaper notices,” Apperson said. “The notices will describe how to request a hearing. Comments also will be requested from the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Garrett County Office of Planning and Land Development.”

Trujillo said Samson also is working with both counties to address sediment control and stormwater management concerns. Property owners in the area also have expressed concerns about possible water contamination from the process of hydrofracking.

The permits, if approved, would be the first such project in Maryland in nearly 15 years, Trujillo said. It’s partly for that reason that MDE has indicated to company officials that there is no true timeline to work through the permit process.

Pennsylvania and Virginia laws don’t require public meetings, Trujillo said, but that’s one of a number of additional steps required by state law if requested by adjacent property owners. The first such meeting could be next spring, Trujillo said.

While the specific type of permit is new, Apperson said Maryland has knowledge of the issue after consulting with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection about its experiences with permitting drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale.

“In addition, as a member of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Maryland has participated in the review of numerous applications for the withdrawal of water for drilling in (the) Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York,” Apperson said. “MDE has also benefitted from work done by the Maryland Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey and a visit to a Pennsylvania drilling site.”