Residents challenge drilling legislation

Published: January 18, 2012

HARRISBURG – A local resident referred to Dallas Township’s experience with Marcellus industry facilities Tuesday as a key reason to oppose impact fee legislation that would make the state attorney  general referee in disputes over gas zoning ordinances.

“Taking local zoning controls from municipalities is not good for the citizens of Pennsylvania,” said Diane Dreier.

Dreier spoke at a Capitol rally where a coalition of groups called for defeat of impact fee legislation approved by both the Senate and House. Members of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne attended the rally held as lawmakers returned to session from a holiday recess.

The groups’ critique focused on provisions in both bills that they say provide for state preemption of local decision-making about drilling activities.

Both measures include provisions where a driller could ask the attorney general to determine whether a gas ordinance is reasonable or not. If a municipality persists in keeping an ordinance rejected by the attorney general, it would lose out on any impact fee revenue.

Faced with plans in recent years by gas companies to build compressor stations and other infrastructure within proximity to the Dallas school district campus, the township supervisors recently amended the zoning ordinance to balance the need for gas development with the rights of local residents and protection of property values, said Dreier.

This amendment allowed the township to put safety conditions on the siting of gas metering stations, said Dreier. The township’s ability to set these kinds of condition would end if the impact fee bills in their current form are enacted, she added.

The impact fee legislation would erode a system where land use and comprehensive plans are developed with grassroots participation, said Roberta Winters, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

“Land use should depend on those with first hand knowledge of the terrain not those in an office with satellite technology,” she added.

The attorney general will look out for the interests of municipalities under the gas ordinance review provisions, said Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, who drafted the Senate-approved bill.

Many municipalities where drilling is taking place lack zoning ordinances because of concerns about enforcement costs and opposition of local residents, he added.

“Nobody should be more above reproach than the attorney general,” said Scarnati.

Scarnati is pushing for a three-way agreement among the House, Senate and Corbett administration on impact fee legislation before the governor’s state budget address Feb. 7. He said it will be more difficult to find a compromise once debate over the next state budget starts.

Drinking water workshop planned in Pottstown

Drinking water workshop planned in Pottstown

Published: Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Mercury staff

POTTSTOWN — A free workshop on how better to protect drinking water sources from contamination will be held Thursday, June 24, at Pottstown Middle School.

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Southeast Region, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania’s Water Resources Education network, the Montgomery County Conservation District, Montgomery County Planning Commission, Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, Schuylkill Action Network, PA Rural Water Association, Pennsylvania Amaerican Waterworks Association and Penn State Cooperative Extension, the workshop will be held at the middle school, 600 N. Franklin St., from 1 to 4:45 p.m.

To preregister visit or contact Julie Kollar at 267-468-0555.

Is Our Drinking Water At Risk?

Is Our Drinking Water At Risk?

League of Women Voters sponsors breakfast to discuss what’s happening in the Marcellus Shale.

By Keith Loria | Email the author | February 6, 2010

The natural gas industry considers the Marcellus Shale something of a gold mine, as the ancient rock formation, extending through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, contains between 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, experts say.

The problem is that to extract the gas, companies are using new technologies combining large quantities of water, pressure and unidentified chemicals to force the gas from the shale, and many believe that this endangers our drinking water, forests, wildlife and personal well-being.

More than two dozen concerned citizens and local government officials were on hand at Hector’s Village Café yesterday morning to hear about these dangers in an event presented by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Larchmont and Mamaroneck.

“We are always interested in educating people on how to take positive steps,” said Elisabeth Radow, the chair of the Environmental Committee for the LWV branch.

“It’s a very compelling topic and is one of the most critical topics that I have seen in a long time,” she said. “We are looking overall at 15 million people whose water supply can be affected because of the drilling.”

One thing was made very clear by the discussion: New York doesn’t have the right kind of regulations in place to handle the environmental realities and the consequences can be serious.

Marian Rose of the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition began by talking about how the drilling unleashes natural radioactivity in very large doses, so there’s the potential of toxicity or cancer.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no control over what they are doing, and they will not tell you what the impact will be,” Rose said. “We believe if you don’t know what’s going to happen, then don’t do it.”

Currently, New York has no regulations about the amount of water that can be extracted. A large concern is that the more drilling that is done, the more water that is needed, and therefore, the forests are being put in danger.

“The Coalition is trying hard to protect the forests in this area,” Rose said. “Nearly 75 percent of our watershed is from the forest, which is why we have good water. If you fragment the forest too much, the landscape will be transformed to a bleak industrial landscape, which will have a major impact on water quality.”

Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s New York office, startled the crowd when she talked about water in Pennsylvania that was apparently affected by the drilling so much that water from faucets could be lit on fire.

“The state of Pennsylvania realized quickly that if they continued to drill they would impact every fresh water stream in a period of two years,” she said. “They are now preparing regulations to protect their waters.”

The hope is that New York will do the same thing. As it stands now, New York is in the middle of an environmental review process, and environmental groups hope that the regulations will be substantially revised. If not, Goldberg said, expect to see a great deal of litigation come about.

Ernie Odierna, councilman for the Town of Mamaroneck, was on-hand and believes this is an issue that everyone should get behind.

“Residents should communicate with their elected officials,” he said. “We are fortunate to have Assemblyman George Latimer here today to hear it first hand, but the rest of them should know about the jeopardy that our environment is being put into because of this. I think that’s key.”