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Murrysville drilling overlay district to stay

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Murrysville officials plan to keep a drilling overlay district but want to tighten regulations on how Marcellus shale drilling is conducted in the municipality.

Municipal planner Allen Cohen said last week that the overlay district will continue to be reviewed to see if additional portions of the municipality should be included. He and the municipal Marcellus shale task force are reviewing the methods used by other communities.

“Every community has its own approach,” Cohen told officials during last week's council meeting. “You can't have a one-size-fits-all approach. Land-use characteristics vary in the communities.”

Cohen said he thinks continuing to have an overlay district is the right move.

“The overlay is what is best for Murrysville,” Cohen said. “It may not work best in other places but neither would an industrial zone in Murrysville.”

The municipality adopted a drilling ordinance in October 2011. Officials began to review the regulations after the state Supreme Court ruling in December that nullified major parts of Act 13, the state law that regulated drilling that was enacted in February 2012. The ruling threw out portions of the law that restricted local leaders from having the power to regulate drilling.

Cohen said that standards and property setbacks — the distance that drilling activities can occur from a structure — will be strengthened.

In particular, Cohen and the municipal Marcellus shale task force are reviewing how other communities have worked “best management practices” into their ordinances. Currently, Murrysville's ordinance recommends that drillers complete operations exceeding industry standards. Cohen ideally would like that to be a requirement. He and the task force are reviewing 23 pages of “best management practices” that could become part of the Murrysville regulations.

“We are evaluating, under that criteria, what will work on our community,” he said. “Things will be evolving over the next several months. We're making good progress.”

Council President Joan Kearns said she hopes stricter regulations can be put in place.

“Hopefully, we can change ‘encouraged' to ‘required' (when it comes to ‘best management practices'),” Kearns said. “It really is a learning curve.

Chief administrator Jim Morrison said he has faith that the Supreme Court ruling backs what the municipality wants to do.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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