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Murrysville approves long-debated fracking ordinance

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:45 a.m.

Murrysville council members voted 6-1 Wednesday night to approve their pending fracking ordinance, which places setbacks at 750 feet from any protected structure to the edge of a well pad.

The vote brings to a close seven years of work on the ordinance — at least for now. Several council members noted that the result of ongoing state court cases could prompt them to revisit it.

“This is a significant improvement for Murrysville,” Councilman Loren Kase said. “We've raised the bar in the Pittsburgh area, which is why I'm sure some people didn't want to see this happen.”

Councilman Tony Spadaro pointed out that Murrysville's ordinance is stricter than any nearby communities, all of which measure setbacks from a well bore hole.

“We measure from the well pad,” Spadaro said. “No one else is doing that, and so when you consider where bore holes are compared to the well pad edge, there's an additional 200 feet beyond our setback.”

Councilwoman Jamie Lee Korns agreed.

“I think the people who are saying we reduced our setback — when you look at the facts, that's just not true,” she said.

Council President Joan Kearns was not so sure.

“We spent a heck of a lot of time reaching 800 feet as our setback, and to suddenly make a left-hand turn from that, down to 600 and finally reaching 750 feet. That really rankled me,” she said. “It's not as much as we'd like, but it's better than (the state minimum of) 500 feet. But to me, it was kind of like dirty pool.”

Councilman David Perry cast the lone vote against the ordinance, citing his concern that it does not go far enough in protecting residents.

“My perspective after 30 years as an environmental consultant is you have to look at the ‘what-ifs,' and you have to be protective of those,” he said.

Resident Alyson Holt, who has circulated petitions asking council to increase fracking setbacks, said in her view, the ordinance is “not a compromise. It's a sellout to the gas industry.”

“Every concession for the past 20 months has been to pro-drilling interests,” she said. “At every turn in the process since September 2015, and despite receiving petitions from over 600 individual Murrysville residents urging more protective setbacks, changes have consistently favored the gas industry.”

Lee Korns said council did what was in its power.

“I believe we've done all we can to protect residents while allowing for reasonable use of this industry, as required by state law,” she said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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