Wilmington Township Supervisors announced Monday they will keep their current oil and gas drilling regulations in place.

The rules are the strictest in Lawrence County and limit hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to a small portion of township land. 

Supervisor Darren Elder told about 45 people attending the supervisors’ regular meeting Monday, ‘We will not ask for a motion to reconsider this matter.”  

He added that if changes are considered in the future, they will be advertised and discussed at a public meeting before any action is taken.

Elder was addressing fears expressed by some residents after an Oct. 28 public meeting that the supervisors might use their regular meeting to introduce a motion to approve the new, less stringent rules, although they had declined to do so last week. 

After Elder’s announcement, most of those attending applauded. 

Warren Hickman was one of several residents who thanked the supervisors. He commended them “on having a strong ordinance that defends the rights of the people.”  He said he couldn’t understand why the changes were proposed to an ordinance less than a year old. 

Another resident, Bob Curry, drew applause when he told supervisors, “Thank you for listening to the desires of your constituents.”

A woman told supervisors, “I recognize you’re in a tough spot.”

Resident Carrie Hahn, who had organized much of the opposition to the new rules, said the way fracking is being done now, “it’s not safe.” She added, “I hope someday down the road it can be done safely. But right now the regulations...the process...it’s not there.”

The Oct. 28 public meeting on changing the oil and gas rules drew more than 100 people who overflowed to outside the building. Most of them voiced opposition to easing the strict regulations on fracking.  After about two hours of residents’ comments at that meeting, Supervisor Dave McConahy had made a motion to adopt the new rules, but the motion died for lack of a second.  McConahy told the News prior to Monday’s meeting that he only made the motion Oct. 28 because it could not be discussed unless it was on the floor.

The controversy began last November when Wilmington Township adopted strict rules which exceeded those imposed by the State Department of Environmental Protection. But a few months later, the township planning commission began revising the rules after Solicitor Jonathan Solomon said they were vulnerable to court challenges by drillers and leaseholders because of recent court decisions.

But the effort by the township to soften the drilling rules met with opposition from many residents who have spoken out at supervisors’ meetings over the past few months.

Reporter

Mary was a full-time reporter for the News for four years and covered Mahoning, Union, Shenango, North Beaver and Pulaski townships and Wilmington Board of Education. Past experience: Vindicator, Lisbon Morning Journal, and several weekly newspapers.

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