Residents urge council to revise drilling regulations
A group of Murrysville residents want local officials to reconsider how and where Marcellus shale drilling can occur before the industry sets up shop in the municipality.
Members of the Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Murrysville asked council last week to postpone any decisions about drilling — including whether to solicit offers to drill under Murrysville Community Park — until municipal drilling regulations have been revisited.
Board member Linda Marts said the group's board of directors wants council to establish a task force to revisit the municipal ordinance. That is in the works, chief administrator Jim Morrison said.
Murrysville resident Alyson Holt — who, along with the preservation group, plans to circulate a referendum petition to help council determine if the park's gas rights will be leased — agreed that revisions are needed.
“Much has been learned in that time,” Holt said. “Municipalities now have both the constitutional right and the public-safety obligation to enact zoning ordinances that protect their citizens' constitutional rights to clean air; pure water; and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
A municipal task force met throughout 2010 and 2011 to craft the regulations, which include a zoning district where surface drilling can occur. Seven members of that committee — Jayne Hoy; Fred Baldassare, Alan Halperin; former Councilman Ron Summerhill; and council members Jeff Kepler, Joan Kearns and Dave Perry — will review the regulations for ways to improve the ordinance.
“All are very well-versed in work done previously, as well as actions done by the Supreme Court,” Morrison said.
Officials said they planned to revisit the ordinance after the state Supreme Court overturned significant portions of Act 13, the state's drilling regulations. The state regulations had limited local officials' power to regulate the drilling process.
Resident Leona Dunnett, who had been outspoken against drilling in the past, said she thinks municipal officials have more power since Act 13 was overturned.
“The precedent set actually states that local zoning laws trump the state's power,” Dunnett said.
Morrison said the group will begin reviewing the ordinance in April.
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.