Pennsylvania PUC asked to review towns' drilling regulations
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HARRISBURG -- New state filings with the state Public Utility Commission show a challenge against Cecil's gas drilling rules, and a second document -- from energy company Range Resources -- questioning the validity of South Fayette's ordinance.
The filings bring the total requests for official ordinance reviews to four. All involve municipalities that are part of a court challenge over the new state drilling law known as Act 13.
The commission has 120 days from the date each request was received to issue an opinion on whether the local rules conflict with state law. If a town's ordinance is deemed unacceptable, it becomes ineligible for receiving a portion of the new impact fee dollars.
In his letter requesting a review of Cecil's ordinance, resident Alan Rank was critical of the Washington County township's drilling ordinance and of local officials' decision not to revise those rules, saying they have shown "nothing but utter disregard for the law."
"As a landowner residing in Cecil Township, I believe that enforcement of the current municipal ordinance has and will prevent the development of oil and gas from taking place," Mr. Rank wrote. "Continued enforcement of this ordinance is only the latest in a trend of anti-industry behavior displayed by the township's officials."
Mr. Rank, who spoke in February at a township meeting against Cecil joining the Act 13 lawsuit, could not be reached Wednesday.
Democratic state Rep. Jesse White, a Cecil resident who has assisted local townships with ordinance and other drilling-related issues, said he doesn't believe it's a coincidence that the opinion requests so far have targeted towns involved in the lawsuit.
"They have not cited any specific problems [with the ordinances]," Mr. White said. "You have to wonder what their true motivation is. If anyone has a true problem, I want to know that, because we'll work with them."
A separate challenge from Range Resources against South Fayette points to what the company says are at least 18 ways the local ordinance conflicts with state law. Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the town's role in the Act 13 lawsuit was not a factor in their request.
"What we're trying to do is conduct our business," Mr. Pitzarella said. "The legal process requires that we do this. We've articulated a lot of these concerns to [township officials]."
South Fayette also faces a challenge from school board member and leaseholder Bill Sray. The commission is expected to issue its order by late October.
First Published September 13, 2012 12:00 am