Etna: Action delayed on allowing shale gas drilling

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Etna council postponed a vote to permit Marcellus Shale gas drilling in parts of the borough that had been scheduled to take place June 21.

Proposed revisions to the zoning amendments, suggested by Allegheny County's planning division, arrived just days earlier, and council opted to take another month to incorporate several of the recommendations.

Borough manager Mary Ellen Ramage indicated council was expected to vote on the amendments at its July 19 meeting. She said the changes from the county were mostly simple updates of terminology used in the present and recommended zoning language.

Currently, drilling is not a permitted use under Etna zoning.

Councilman David Becki said one goal of the revision was to keep drilling out of residential areas.

Mayor Thomas Rengers explained that council was taking steps to allow drilling in a limited area of the township to avoid being forced to permit it anywhere, should the borough lose a legal challenge.

"We can't afford to fight if we try to ban it entirely," Mr. Rengers said.

Under the proposal, drilling would be permitted in the largely industrial area running along the railroad tracks in the eastern part of the borough. Pine Creek also flows there.

During the June 21 public hearing on the issue, John Stolz, an environmental research professor at Duquesne University, said it was especially important to ensure emergency responders are trained to handle drill site blowouts and other such crises.

"If you're not prepared for these things, you'd have to evacuate within a one-mile radius of the well site," said Mr. Stolz, who lives in Shaler near the Etna border.

Council President Peter Ramage said such preparation was called for as part of the changes to be voted upon.

Mr. Stolz also asked borough officials to ensure that the heavy trucks used to remove drilling water do not take an excessive toll on Etna roads.

In other business, council approved hiring a new administrative aide in borough offices and said advertising had been placed for a new police officer.

In another matter, Mr. Ramage said borough residents would continue to be eligible for a 10 percent discount on flood insurance as a result of Etna retaining its status as a Class 8 community following the 2010 census.

Mrs. Ramage said the community had been awarded a $55,000 federal community development block grant to replace an aging waterline on Clark Street. Etna will provide $24,000 for the project.

Borough officials said upcoming inspections would evaluate repair needs on the Greeley Avenue and Dewey Street bridges.

Tim Tuinstra, freelance writer: .


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