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Oakmont group looks to control fracking through zoning

Dillon Carr
| Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, 9:42 a.m.
Elisa Beck of Sustainable Monroeville, an environmental advocacy group, addresses the Monroeville council and administration during a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12, where the board adopted regulations related to hydraulic fracturing.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Elisa Beck of Sustainable Monroeville, an environmental advocacy group, addresses the Monroeville council and administration during a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12, where the board adopted regulations related to hydraulic fracturing.

Environmental advocates Sept. 26 will lead the first of three community meetings planned in Oakmont to discuss fracking and zoning.

The public meeting 7-9 p.m. at Elks Club 1668, 106 Washington Ave., is being hosted by Citizens to Protect Oakmont and the national environmental nonprofit, Food and Water Watch.

Each meeting will have its own topic:

• Sept. 26: The basics of zoning, planning and land-use.

• Oct. 10: Legal issues involving oil and gas companies and local governments.

• Oct. 24: Reviewing Oakmont's updated draft of the oil and gas ordinance being proposed by council.

The meetings were spurred by Oakmont's ordinance in July that set limits to seismic testing. Communities like Oakmont, Monroeville and others in the region have recently been taking closer looks at regulating practices related to hydraulic fracturing , or fracking — a process of extracting gas by injecting rock with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.

“Drilling for unconventional gas is a pretty complex process,” said Doug Shields, an outreach liaison for Western PA Food & Water Watch, the regional branch of the Washington group.

The meetings are part of the organization's effort to give its take to residents on the controversial topic, he said.

Oakmont is also working to update its zoning and land-use laws under its oil and gas ordinance, Borough Manager Lisa Cooper Jensen said.

Shields was part of a five-member panel at a Plum Council meeting recently aimed at answering questions about a proposed fracking wastewater injection well.

“Food & Water Watch's role is to just provide technical assistance on the issue,” he said. “We want to give people the light and they will find their own way — that's our goal.”

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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