Judge Upholds West Deer Township Denial of Drilling Well Pad Opposed by Concerned Residents

Olympus Energy Appeal Rejected by Court Because of Potential Impact on Local Health, Safety and Welfare

West Deer Township, Allegheny County, PA – A judge has upheld a decision by the West Deer Township Board of Supervisors last year to deny a permit application for Olympus Energy’s proposed Dionysus deep well site. The project had been opposed by many local residents and the Environmental Integrity Project because of its potential pollution and human health impacts.

Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County wrote in his opinion, dated August 23: “The record in this case supports the Board’s denial of Olympus Energy’s Conditional Use Application. Olympus Energy failed to prove that the setback requirements set forth in the Ordinance were satisfied and the Objectors established that the proposed use would endanger the health, safety, morals and welfare of the Township.”

On December 15, 2021, the West Deer Township Board of Supervisors, after nine public hearings spanning four months, unanimously denied the conditional use permit for the proposed well site because the proposal did not meet Township ordinance requirements, including for required setbacks and public health and safety standards.

The board’s decision noted that community members “demonstrated ‘with a high degree of probability’ that the proposed Deep Well Site will substantially affect the health, safety and welfare of the community, greater than what is normally expected from this type of use.”

Olympus Energy appealed the board’s denial, but Judge James wrote in his opinion on Monday: “The decision of the West Deer Township Board of Supervisors is affirmed and Olympus Energy’s appeal is denied and dismissed.”

Lisa Graves Marcucci, PA Coordinator of Community Outreach, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “Judge James’ ruling affirms local government’s authority to protect public health, safety and welfare from harmful industrial operations. Companies with a history of violations pose risks to communities like West Deer. And both the Township and the Judge recognized the unacceptable risks of the project highlighted by community member testimony – including Olympus Energy’s problematic track record”

With word of the decision from Judge James, West Deer resident Tim Resciniti said, “The feeling of the initial denial right before the holidays was amazing for the community, but honestly, winning again in court might be even better. I was so happy when I checked the docket last night and read the ruling that I barely slept.” Tim went on to say, “It gives me hope that the actions our community took to protect us will be a roadmap for other communities to do the same. “

Vanessa Lynch, PA State Coordinator, Moms Clean Air Force, said: “For far too long the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania has avoided accountability on the health impacts of fracking well pads on children and families. The health and safety of our communities must be prioritized. Common sense protections for communities provide much needed safeguards, and parents are coming together to empower local community leaders to protect our children’s health.”

Robin Lesko, senior organizer at Food & Water Watch, said: “This ruling confirms what those on the front lines of the fracking industry have known for years – that the inherent health and safety risks to local residents are simply too much to bear. We are hopeful that this monumental decision will help turn the tides against the dirty, dangerous drilling and fracking that has burdened western Pennsylvania communities for far too long.”

For a copy of Judge James’ decision, click here.

Concerned Residents of West Deer (CROWD) is a collective of West Deer Township residents committed to the health and safety of our neighborhoods, roads, businesses, schools, parks, and open spaces.

Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Moms Clean Air Force is a community of over 1,000,000 moms and dads united against air pollution – including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health. We fight for Justice in Every Breath, recognizing the importance of equitable solutions in addressing air pollution and climate change.

Media contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org