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Monday, April 11, 2011

Take a lesson Moon Supervisors: Sewickley Hills (PA) Gets One Step Closer To Marcellus Shale (2-15-11)

Hey Moon Township Supervisors--take notice!! Sewickley's supervisors appear to understand exactly how to control Marcellus Shale exploration in their community, but you folks are absent!! They will be restricting exploration to industrial and commercial districts specifically. If you read further down the piece, you will see that you guys have been at this since 2008, and have so far done nothing to solidify restrictive ordinances!!!

Sewickley Hills Targets Marcellus Shale Drilling

A public hearing will take place March 28 during council’s regular work session.
Sewickley Hills moved one step closer to enacting an ordinance that targets and regulates Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
Borough Council, under the recommendation of the borough planning commission, voted to send the borough’s draft Marcellus Shale ordinance to the county for review.
The ordinance aims to control gas well drilling in Sewickley Hills by providing guidelines as part of the borough’s zoning regulations. The Marcellus Shale rock formation underlies much of Pennsylvania and is  believed to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that could help supply U.S. demand, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
If enacted, the ordinance would permit Marcellus Shale drilling only in the borough's commercial and industrial district, which lies in the area of Glenfield Road and Interstate 79.
Solicitor Art Leonard explained to council that municipalities can’t lawfully ban Marcellus Shale drilling completely from all areas of the borough. Nor can officials be too exclusionary when it comes to zoning drilling, he said.  
“That not’s legal,” Leonard said.
Council directed the borough engineer to review slope requirements and setbacks in the designated commercial district to be sure the borough meets the standard 5-acre minimum required by law.
A public hearing on the matter was also scheduled also for March 28 during council’s regular work session. Property owners will be permitted to voice concerns or opinions on the record.
Sewickley Hills joins Bell Acres and Edgeworth, as well as myriad other local communities that have either passed ordinances or are working to put regulations in place.
Marcellus Shale gas drilling has raised concerns about public health and environmental risks in municipalities across Pennsylvania. Extracting the gas involves horizontal drilling that requires large amounts of water mixed with sand and other proponents to “fracture” the shale under high pressure so the natural gas can flow freely.
Advocacy groups say the drilling is safe, but opponents have expressed concerns about the contaminated water that results from fracking and the potential for gas explosions and other catastrophes.
In Sewickley Hills, council members made their feelings clear about allowing drilling in the borough.
Councilman Klaus Gross said one of his biggest concerns involves the storage ponds for fracking water and the possible destruction of the borough’s watershed.
“I’m opposed to drilling on borough property…I’m opposed to drilling on my property,” Gross said. “I think that’s a serious issue.”  
But Councilwoman Kim Holzer said she felt, considering the borough’s tight financial situation, officials should at least give consideration to allowing possible future drilling on borough property.
“I’m just being a realist,” Holzer said, to which an audience member shouted, “Boo!”
“Boo the 5- or 6-mill tax increase,” Holzer replied. “…Down the road five years, this might be an ace in the hole to help taxpayers."
Councilwoman Cindy Phillips said she doesn’t think at this early stage that anyone has a good handle on all the potential dangers the fracking fluids pose.
Phillips said council could always modify the ordinance to allow drilling, but at this juncture, she thinks “it’s a bad idea.”
“Right now it truly scares me to have someone come in and do drilling,” Phillips said. 
Would you be willing to have a tax increase in order to keep out Marcellus Shale drilling? Tell us in the comments.

Residents in Sewickley Hills Air Concerns about Marcellus Shale Council plans to reconvene a public hearing on Monday, April 25.

Sewickley Hills resident Ray Ott still has questions about the borough's proposed ordinance to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling, among them, how noise levels would be measured.
Ott, who owns 55 acres in the borough, said much of his property is in the proposed commercial and industrial zone where gas drilling would be permitted on a conditional use.
While he isn’t particularly against the drilling -- if it benefits the borough -- Ott said, "If it’s going to hurt us at all, I’m not for it.”
A crowd showed up to a special public meeting Monday night in Sewickley Hills to voice concerns, offer opinions and raise questions about Marcellus Shale drilling in the community. The proposed ordinance would control gas well drilling in Sewickley Hills by restricting it to the borough's commercial and industrial district, which lies in the area of Glenfield Road and Interstate 79.
After about two hours of public testimony, council decided to leave the hearing open until Monday, April 25 in order to make minor changes before reconvening to act on the ordinance. In the meantime, the planning commission will meet to review and adjust the ordinance based on council’s concerns.
Councilman Noah Fardo pointed out a clause that would require well-testing on parcels within 2,000 feet from a drill site, and he noted that residents within 1,000 feet would be notified in case of an emergency. He suggested increasing the distance to 5,000 feet for both.
Many communities are rushing to put zoning regulations in place before a company attempts to drill there. The Marcellus Shale rock formation that underlies much of Pennsylvania is believed to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that could help supply U.S. demand.
Extracting the gas involves horizontal drilling that requires large amounts of water mixed with sand and other components to “fracture” the shale under high pressure so the natural gas can flow freely.
Paul Poas of bordering Sewickley Heights said he lives “very close” to the proposed drilling zone. Like many residents, he is concerned about the fracking process, the impact of giant wells, truck traffic and noise levels, and possible reduced property values.
“People come out here to live a certain lifestyle,” Poas said, adding that drilling companies are interested only in making money and not in maintaining the character of the town.
Kevin Weir of Pittsburgh said, “We all drink the same water and breathe the same air,” and that contaminated water, gas explosions and other catastrophes are not uncommon results of drilling. He said there have been numerous environmental violations and questions about health issues, including incidents of cancer.
 “Anybody that would want this in their area, shame on them,” he said.
Loretta Weir likened the drilling issue to a constitutional battle, saying that the people have a right to clean air and water.
 “A lot of municipalities are in the same position that you are in,” she said. 
Some asked if the proposed 5-acre-or-more zone couldn’t be reduced to three acres. Others asked if a moratorium could be placed on the drilling, or even an outright ban.
Solicitor Art Leonard said all of the questions raised Monday night have come up at other meetings and that existing laws favor the gas drillers. He cited a state Supreme Court decision against Salem Township that struck down the municipality’s entire ordinance because it imposed too many restrictions on gas drilling companies. The court decision left the entire community open to drilling, he said.
“If you try to say ‘You can’t do this and that,’ your ordinance is going to get struck,” Leonard warned.
Resident Joe Hajnas said he worried that the perimeters,  by his estimates,  would be too exclusionary. He suggested the borough review the minimal acreage.
Officials said the borough engineer was performing a feasibility study to determine if drilling would be possible in the industrial and commercial zone.
Rather than risk allowing drilling rigs anywhere, Councilwoman Cindy Phillips said, the borough wants a properly zoned district to be set aside for drilling and to keep it out of residential back yards.
Lori Gross encouraged everyone to become informed on the different perspectives and to attend an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 14 at the Big Sewickley Creek Fire Hall.
Poas said he doesn’t think the borough was the right place for drilling.
 “I just urge Sewickley Hills to take a firm position on this … there’s no reason to make it easy on them,” he said.
How do you feel about Marcellus Shale drilling in your community? Tell us in the comments.

Moon Township Workshop meeting back in 2008:
The Workshop Meeting of August 27, 2008 was called to order at 7:00 p.m., with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, Chairman Tim McLaughlin presiding. Board of Supervisors present: Tim McLaughlin, Jim Vitale, Frank Sinatra and Marvin Eicher. Also present: Greg Smith, Jodi Noble, Scott Brilhart, Michael Santicola, Colleen Kartychak, Michael Meyer,Sam DiCicco, Sam DiCicco, Jr., Bob Harper, Pat Cooper, Anthony Castalone, Jennifer Fox-Rabold, Andrea Geraghty, Sandy McCurdy, Cliff Johnson, Jennifer DiNardo, Dr. Beryl Johnson, Cindy Cooney, Marilyn Adams, Joseph D’Andrea, Vince Maggio and Tom Arnold.

Public Comment on Agenda Action Items: 

Dr. Beryl Johnson of 224 Gentry Road said that she would like to comment on the proposed gas and oil lease ordinance. She has not seen it yet and wanted to ask if the Board is planning to include road limits in that ordinance. Mr. Meyer said that he has not yet seen the ordinance either. Mr. Santicola asked if Dr. Johnson meant weight limits on Township roads. Dr. Johnson said that she did. About the only control that a municipality has is with these weight limits, so she hopes that it is included. There is a bill that is currently before the Legislature that will be addressing that, but that bill will not be passed for some time. We need to take care of ourselves. 

Township Solicitor:    
Oil and Gas Lease Ordinance—Mr. Santicola asked if the Board and staff had an opportunity to review that. He thinks it is something we need to put on the agenda to pass at the next meeting. It includes everything we can include in it pursuant to the statutes that control it. It mirrors the Oil and Gas Act. He will take one more look at it before next week’s meeting so that we can get it on the agenda for approval.     
       Mrs. Noble 
said that due to the legal advertising requirements, it cannot be put on next week’s regular meeting agenda. It can be advertised for adoption in October. Mr. Eicher said that the Pennsylvania Legislature had a Town Hall meeting broadcast on cable television from the northeastern part of the State. They had several attendees from Penn State University, several attorneys, a landowner, and someone from the Sierra Club. 
       He learned that the way the law is written, it really bypasses local ordinances. You cannot write an ordinance that says that you can’t come in and drill for oil or gas in your municipality. The thing that you can do is protect your roads. It also can limit how close they can be to certain residential areas and limit the hours of operation. These operations also obviously need pipelines. Once they do this, there is going to be some construction. So in some ways you can limit the way they put in the pipeline. You can also protect your community from the way they dispose of the water that is required on their sites. So what you can do is control the peripheral things that go along with this drilling. 
      But the Federal law gives them the right to come in and do this drilling for oil and gas. What Mr. Santicola has in the draft ordinance is basically the maximum of what we can do in Moon Township.

Moon Township Board of Supervisors are no further along than they were at this meeting. We have a weak ordinance that they approved as a draft oil and gas addendum. We do not final approval of any strong Marcellus Shale drilling ordinances!

We now have Sewickley acting in their best interest to protect their community from the predatory practices of Marcellus Shale drillers, and we have other communities doing what they can to protect their communities, too. 


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