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South Fayette commissioners want three barred from driller's case

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Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011
 

South Fayette commissioners want a judge to bar two members of the three-person township Zoning Hearing Board and an alternate member from hearing an appeal from a drilling company seeking to overturn the township's oil and gas drilling ordinance.

In a petition filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, commissioners maintained Frederick Cardillo and John Alan Kosky, two members of the zoning board, have conflicts of interest because they hold gas leases with driller Range Resources. The petition claims alternate board member David Bradley would face a conflict because he is a vice president at EQT Corp., another energy company.

Cardillo, Kosky and Bradley could not be reached for comment.

A judge is scheduled to hear the petition on Monday.

The board members declined to remove themselves in advance of Wednesday's scheduled hearing on Range Resources' appeal.

"We're just looking for a fair hearing," township solicitor Jonathan Kamin said of the decision to go to court.

The zoning board's solicitor, Thomas Ayoob, did not return calls seeking comment.

Texas-based Range Resources, which has offices in Cecil, holds gas leases on thousands of acres in South Fayette. It wants the board to overturn the oil and gas ordinance, claiming its setback restrictions and requirements for drilling pads effectively bar the company from drilling.

The 2010 ordinance caused a bitter split among the township's 14,000 residents and was among the reasons that township Manager Mike Hoy cited for his departure last month. Voters on Tuesday will replace three commissioners who opted against seeking re-election to the five-member board.

Citing the Pennsylvania Ethics Act in their petition, commissioners said the two zoning board members and alternate member must recuse themselves from the Range Resources appeal because they have direct interest in its outcome.

Kamin said commissioners are prepared to appoint temporary members to the zoning board for the Range Resources appeal.

"We have 14,000 residents. We could choose among them to fill this board. ... We're not asking them to permanently step down, but just on this case," Kamin said. "They've served the township well in other matters."

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