Prove your humanity

A controversial plan for a natural gas well at a steel mill near Pittsburgh has suffered another setback. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said it is ending review of the project after the fracking company behind it lost its local zoning permit in October. 

New Mexico-based Merrion Oil and Gas has been planning on drilling a well at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant since 2017. Merrion’s permit from East Pittsburgh borough expired earlier this year, after the company could not gain DEP approval to begin work. In October, the borough voted to deny an extension. 

Without that permit, the DEP now says the project can’t move forward, and says it’s suspending its review of the company’s environmental permits “unless and until Merrion obtains zoning approval from the appropriate government entity to construct and operate the facility.” 

The well has been opposed by some local residents over health and safety concerns. The company says it’s reviewing the decision, but still intends to move forward with the project. 

“This project is an important investment in the Mon Valley and we, along with our local partners, are committed to seeing it through,” said Merrion’s operations manager, Ryan Davis, in an emailed statement. 

The decision was cheered by Edith Abeyta, of North Braddock Residents for Our Future, a group that has opposed the project. In a statement, she said the decision was a direct result of community opposition. 

“The time has come for those on the frontlines all across the state to recognize that true power exists when people join together, and standing up to these giants is not impossible,” she said. “These historic victories should show Merrion that they can keep trying, but we will keep winning.”

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.