New Castle News

Closer Look

July 10, 2014

Crowd turns out for vote on new fracking rules

NEW CASTLE — The Wilmington Township supervisors updated their zoning ordinance this week to address fracking.

More than 70 people turned out Tuesday and stayed in the crowded township meeting room for more than three hours to get information and voice concerns about the new fracking limits.

Because of space limits, some residents had to stand outside, where they listened through windows or open doors.

Most of those attending went after receiving a postcard sent by township resident Carrie Hahn, who is a member of the Fracking Truth Alliance, an anti-fracking group.

The supervisors’ action updates a 1987 ordinance that dealt only with conventional wells.

The updates define the difference between conventional and unconventional wells, increase setbacks for unconventional wells, regulate erection of wellpads in flood plains, regulate noise from wells and address bonds that must be posted for road damage from trucks.

The amendments continue to allow drilling in commercial, agricultural and industrial zoned areas by special exception that requires a zoning hearing.

Hahn’s postcard stated the amendments “do little to protect our homes and the health and wellbeing of community residents.”

She commented that they are the same as the state’s recommended rules “which many believe are inadequate.”

However, Jonathon Solomon, the township’s solicitor, pointed out the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection often waives its standards and the township is better protected if it has its own standards in place that cannot be waived.

He cautioned that if the supervisors did not pass the amendments Tuesday, a gas driller going into the township in the near future would have to observe only the provisions of a 1987 law intended for the conventional or shallow wells.

And time is short, Solomon said, explaining that though no wells are being drilled in the township yet, one driller has obtained a permit from the DEP and may be ready to apply for a zoning permit.

He said his recommendation to the supervisors is to pass the updated amendments and then “go back to the drawing board” if they are not sufficient.

Supervisors Dave McConahy, Darren Elder and Bill Allen unanimously voted for the proposed amendments.

They also formally asked the planning commission to examine the issue and return with any recommended changes.

The supervisors asked for this within three months but planning commission secretary Frederick Neikirk said it could be sooner.

Some of those attending expressed concerns about fracking going into the township.

Jim Hartzler of Fayette asked the supervisors to impose a moratorium on gas drilling.

Others pointed to the drilling going on in Pulaski and Mahoning townships and asked if Wilmington wants this.

Susan Gerle presented the supervisors with a written proposal for further setbacks and more extensive limits than the amendments provide.

Joe Mast said he is concerned about traffic and health issues involved.

Sally May Altman said she fears the effect on private water wells.

One man, who said he owns 12 acres, noted he was upset to find a wellpad is going in near his property.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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