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Friday, November 18, 2011

State Legislation Wouldn't Affect Forest Hills Drilling Ban, Officials Say

From Forest Hills/Regent Square Patch written by Shawn Klocek

The ban on gas drilling in Forest Hills doesn't qualify as regulation, according to officials.

Pending state legislation that would prohibit local governments from regulating natural gas drilling wouldn’t affect Forest Hills’ drilling ban, officials said at a regular council meeting Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill which includes an impact fee and gives the state complete control over zoning regulations pertaining to drilling. The House passed its version of the bill Thursday, which mirrors the Senate bill regarding zoning regulations.
The two versions must be reconciled before Governor Tom Corbett can take action on the measure.
A legal team that helped Forest Hills council draft its ban on natural gas drilling has maintained that the measure asserts the borough’s right to protect its citizens’ health and environment, rather than regulate where or how drillers operate.
Because of that, said Forest Hills council President Frank Porco, their ban would not be affected by the state legislation. 
Porco said he opposes the legislation because it gives too much control to the state.
“To basically render local municipalities powerless in their ability to govern their own community when it comes to this particular topic—I think it's just an absolute shame,” he said.
Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, voted against the Senate bill, and Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins, voted against the House bill—even though he was initially one of four Democrats sponsoring it.

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