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Protect PT wants court to halt fracking in Penn Township

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 9:45 a.m.
Members of activist group Protect PT announce a challenge to Penn Township's fracking ordinance at a demonstration at the township municipal building on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Tribune-Review
Members of activist group Protect PT announce a challenge to Penn Township's fracking ordinance at a demonstration at the township municipal building on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Lawyers for a Penn Township environmental group are expected to be in court Friday to ask a judge to issue an injunction to halt a zoning hearing on a request to build two additional natural gas wells.

Gillian Graber, executive director of Protect PT, a nonprofit that has lobbied against natural gas drilling in the township, said the group's attorneys will present Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili with the injunction request in an effort to stop energy companies from gaining approval to drill while another lawsuit is pending. That lawsuit challenges the Penn Township ordinance that allows extraction of natural gas and other minerals.

Marsili had been scheduled to hear the group's lawsuit to invalidate the ordinance in January, but Graber said there is concern that work to approve the two additional drilling sites will commence later this month.

Protect PT is challenging the ordinance approved by township commissioners last year, contending it violates residents' rights to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.

Marsili issued a court order in September that granted permission for Apex Energy to begin construction of four well sites.

Apex officials could not be reached for comment.

Marsili also will hear court arguments Oct. 23 on the nonprofit's lawsuit challenging the township's zoning appeals board decision to allow Apex to drill at four other sites in the township.

“We feel that the zoning hearing board got it wrong. We pointed out several inconsistencies and violations of the ordinance to the board, but they still granted the approvals. We hope a judge will be more objective in his analysis of the record,” Graber said in a news release.

Penn Township solicitor Michael Korns said the township will defend its ordinance.

“Our ordinance is a reasonable balance in allowing for this activity while protecting environmental protections of our community,” he said. “Frankly, we have one of the toughest ordinances in the county.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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