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Hearing to address gas drill ordinance for Jefferson Hills

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 4:41 a.m.

Jefferson Hills plans to be ready if and when the state Supreme Court acts on the state's oil and gas Act 13, and is taking steps to regulate the mapping of oil, gas and whatever else is underground.

Borough council voted unanimously on Monday to schedule a public hearing on Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. concerning a long-delayed oil and gas ordinance.

The high court heard arguments last October on an appeal of a Commonwealth Court ruling that shot down Act 13's limits on local governments' ability to regulate oil and gas drilling, but has issued no decision yet.

Borough officials hope the lower court's decision will be upheld. If not, borough planner and zoning director Allen Cohen said, “It's back to the drawing board.”

Council voted 3-1 to approve an ordinance that would regulate geophysical and seismic testing in the borough, and by the same vote OK'd a separate agreement with Geokinetics USA Inc. allowing it to conduct a survey at Beedle Park and on borough-maintained streets.

Council vice president James Weber was joined by Councilmen Tracey Khalil and David Montgomery in voting for the measures. Councilwoman Kathleen Reynolds voted no.

“Different taxpayers have come to my house and said they're not for it,” Reynolds said. “Some were very concerned.”

Her colleagues said they too are concerned, but felt they had to vote in favor.

Council president Christopher King and Councilwomen Janice Cmar and Vickie Ielase were absent.

Cohen was principal author of the Geokinetics agreement with public works director Tom Lovell, and finance director and acting boroughmanager Andrew McCreery.

“Both parties have used whatever leverage they had and came up with this agreement,” McCreery said.

The agreement bonds the borough's roads against the heavy vehicles that will be used for the survey.

It adds the borough to Geokinetics' insurance for up to $1 million per incident.

It also bars the use of explosives or shot holes as part of the survey of borough properties. Usually 2.2-pound dynamite charges are employed.

Geokinetics agreed to pay a $642 permit fee for the work in Beedle Park.

McCreery said Geokinetics “verbally said they will comply with this (new) ordinance.”

The ordinance and agreement are part of the borough's response to a canvassing effort that began in February.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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