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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Range Resources: Proposed Cecil Ordinance 'Will Not Work'


Cecil Township supervisors struggle to  remain in control of Range Resources' Marcellus Shale drilling in their community. Range suggested in the ordinances that the supervisors revisit the ordinances yearly. How about revisiting the ordinances monthly or quarterly!!

Range Resources: Proposed Cecil Ordinance 'Will Not Work'

Discussion was heated Thursday as attorneys faced off over a proposed ordinance governing Marcellus Shale drilling.

Range Resources attorney Ken Komoroski told Cecil supervisors Thursday that a proposed conditional-use ordinance governing Marcellus Shale drilling was “vague and ambiguous”—and said it “will not work” for the company, the township or anybody.
What followed was a more than hour-long back and forth among Komoroski, Solicitor John Smith and board Chairman Mike Debbis, who argued about the conditions set forth in the ordinance during the public hearing.
Asked by Supervisor Tom Casciola why the proposed ordinance is unacceptable—even legally challengeable—Komoroski said the process is unpredictable and the burden of proof is nearly impossible.
He then pointed to language in the proposed ordinance, and said words such as “excessive” and “harmonious” are extremely difficult to prove through witness testimony that a drill site meets those criteria.
“(Range) would have to prove it is harmonious,” Komoroski said. “I don’t have the faintest idea what that is.”
Komoroski reiterated that the conditional-use process is often lengthy, and that with Cecil’s proposed ordinance, there is no guarantee that a request would be approved even if all the conditions were met.
He again said the company is in favor of “reasonable” conditions, but stressed company officials believed the model ordinance submitted would be most appropriate for the township to adopt.
But the exchange became heated throughout when supervisors were asked to specifically pinpoint problems the township has had with Range Resources while it has operated under Cecil’s current ordinance, which allows Marcellus Shale drilling as a permitted use.
Supervisor Andy Schrader said he was not happy with the access first responders and other Cecil officials have had to drill sites. He said the township wanted to go on site on a Wednesday but was not granted access until the following Thursday.
Schrader, other members of the board and Smith also stressed that the advantage of a conditional-use process from the township’s perspective is the ability to allow for site-specific conditions, as well as to adapt to emerging technology and best practices.
Komoroski was steadfast in his disagreement, telling the board and Smith that he believed regulations set forth in the proposed ordinance are already covered by the Oil and Gas Act, and suggested that if adapting is what is imperative, supervisors could include a caveat in the document to allow the board to revisit conditions each year.
When the meeting was again opened up to residents after Komoroski’s remarks, the majority of those who spoke implored supervisors to approve the conditional-use ordinance.
Some mentioned recent accidents at area well sites, and said news of water contamination and boil-water notices solidified their belief that conditional-use was the most prudent way to govern drilling activities.
All the while, Mary Dalbo, a constant fixture at Cecil Township meetings, taunted the speakers, asking one, "You’re gonna find fault, aren’t you?”
When the woman looked at her and said, “Yes,” Dalbo uttered a “Good grief!”
That’s around the time State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, approached the lectern, saying he was speaking as a resident.
White first encouraged the board to make what it felt was the most appropriate decision, but implored them to do it sooner rather than later.
“I don’t want to see my town go through what Mt. Pleasant has gone through. That town has scars,” he said. “If we in Cecil can’t learn from that and make it better, then shame on all of us.”
White again stressed: “Don’t let it drag out forever. The town can’t handle it.”
The board decided to continue the meeting to 6:30 p.m. May 23 so that portions of Range Resources’ model ordinance associated with notification requirements for drilling schedules and comments from Cecil fire Chief Dennis Berty could be incorporated.
Debbis said the board would likely be poised to vote on the ordinance “one way or another” in June.
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