Cranberry working on ordinance to control Marcellus Shale drilling
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Acknowledging that property rights issues are at stake, Cranberry's newly advertised ordinance regulating Marcellus Shale drilling is an attempt to balance one person's interest in capitalizing on natural gas prospecting while protecting his neighbors from unwanted impacts, township officials said.
"From a property rights standpoint, people have a right to take advantage of the potential opportunities [associated with Marcellus Shale drilling] but we also have to protect our neighbors' properties. ... We're trying to be as fair as we can be," said Cranberry Supervisor John Skorupan.
Supervisors voted unanimously last Thursday to advertise a new ordinance that would set parameters for drilling. A public hearing on the measure will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the township's Rochester Road municipal center. A vote on the ordinance is anticipated at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2, in the same location.
Cranberry Manager Jerry Andree said the township felt it needed to establish regulations in light of booming interest in gas resources development, specifically that which involves tapping the deep layers of earth -- the Marcellus Shale layer -- for natural gas.
The ordinance notes that "gas exploration and drilling operations involve activities that may impact the township's environment, infrastructure and related public health, safety and welfare." That's why the four-page document sets specific standards and locations where the drilling will be allowed.
"Basically, we're setting it up so that it will be allowed as a conditional use in [four zoning districts] that are concentrated around the major highways [of Routes 19 and 228,]" Mr. Andree said.
He explained, though, that while the drilling superstructure -- that which is visible above ground -- would be restricted to those commercial areas, residential areas could potentially be reached through underground piping. The zoning districts where it would be allowed would include the transitional light industrial, planned industrial/commercial, light industrial and special use -- all commercial districts.
The drilling use also would be "conditional," meaning supervisors would have an opportunity to review every application for approval.
Rules also would be set for protecting township roads traversed by drilling equipment operators.
Marcellus Shale lies 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep under much of Pennsylvania. The layer contains enough natural gas to supply the U.S. demand for 10 to 15 years, experts say.
New deep directional drilling technology has spurred interest in rural and more populated areas. This year, the state Department of Environmental Protection has issued more than 2,000 new Marcellus drilling permits.
First Published July 1, 2010 6:11 am