Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penn Residents Worried About Shale

Residents worried about Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling want to make sure Allegheny County Council holds a second public hearing on the subject.
Council's agenda for Tuesday night includes a motion to schedule a hearing next month.
Gloria Forouzan, of Lawrenceville, said she and other anti-drilling advocates want council members to know the topic is important to many of their constituents.
If authorized by a majority of full council, the session would take place 5 p.m. March 10 in the Gold Room of the courthouse.
Council had held a similar hearing on July 21.
Since that time, County Executive Dan Onorato has come out in support of natural gas drilling on county-owned land, a position that has drawn support from both Republican and Democratic candidates looking to succeed him.
County officials have said that any drilling would have to be done in ways that benefit the local community, protect the environment and respect the rights of neighboring property owners.
With a primary election coming in May, Ms. Forouzan said the topic deserved another airing. "A lot more people have become concerned about this issue in the past few months," she said. "They need a chance to speak out."
Council's government reform committee last week discussed but took no action on three measures that would regulate drilling in the county.
Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, proposed an ordinance to prohibit natural gas wells within 2,000 feet of a residence. Councilmen Rich Fitzgerald, D-Squirrel Hill, and John DeFazio, D-Shaler, proposed a 500-foot buffer zone. Lycoming County had passed a similar regulation, Mr. Fitzgerald said.
State law requires only a 200-foot buffer around drilling platforms.
Committee members discussed both measures with representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection and of Range Resources, a drilling company active in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The proposed county restrictions, which would be stricter than state rules, might not be legal, Range Resources spokesman Jim Cannon said. It was not clear if state law would pre-empt local regulations on setbacks, he said.
Elizabeth Schneider, a member of Lincoln Place Action group, urged council to pass tougher drilling rules. Even a 500-foot buffer zone was not sufficient to protect neighbors in urban or suburban areas, she said.
Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless, had proposed an ordinance to set up a county disposal registry to keep track of the liquids used to fracture underground rocks and release natural gas.
She withdrew her measure after George Jugovic, the EPA's southwest regional director, said the state collected such reports two times a year.

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