Online petition calls for tighter regulation of fracking in Plum
An online petition in Plum is asking residents to appeal to council members to pass a zoning ordinance that prevents oil and gas drilling in rural residential zones.
The petition, created by “Citizens 4 Plum” on Change.org, reads: “Unconventional gas drilling will convert most of the Rural Residential zone into an industrial zone which upends the investment-backed expectations of the people who live and moved into Plum Borough.”
The online petition had 785 signatures as of Monday. “Unconventional gas drilling” refers to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.
The petition does not identify its author, and even staunch opponents of fracking in the borough said they are unaware of who posted it.
But Councilman Dave Vento, a Democrat who ran for mayor and was defeated this month after running a campaign rooted in strong regulation of fracking in the borough, agrees that rural residential areas are not the place for drilling.
“The majority of council's mind is already made up. I'm trying to let them know that more people than they think don't want fracking,” Vento said. “I don't think 20 people should make the decision for the 27,000 people of Plum.”
A recent public hearing on proposed changes to the borough's zoning ordinance drew about an equal mix of people for and against the regulations. If adopted, the new ordinance would allow the controversial drilling method in industrial and rural residential zones. The borough's ordinance, last updated in 1993, now allows fracking in every zoning district after a conditional use is granted. About 20 percent of the 29-square-mile borough is zoned rural residential, according to Plum officials.
Council President Mike Doyle has said he would have a hard time excluding rural residential zones from oil and gas activities.
Council Vice President Michael Dell declined to comment, “since we are still gathering data.” No other council members responded to emails seeking comment on the proposed zoning ordinance.
Vento expects a vote on the ordinance at council's Dec. 11 meeting.
Daniel Laird, a Democrat who lost election for a Plum council seat in November on a platform supporting regulation of fracking, said he hopes council is open to considering what the public wants. Laird has been circulating the Change.org petition on social media sites.
“This is ... a community issue,” Laird said. “I hope there is a way to sway their opinion.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, email@example.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.