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Washington Township residents: Use drilling revenue to ease impact

| Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 10:53 p.m.

Westmoreland County residents want officials to use some of the money the county will receive from Marcellus shale impact fees to prepare for possible environmental damage caused by the drilling practice.

"I think you should spend most of it, or the first part of it, on having water buffaloes provided for Westmoreland County," said Andy Pollack, 70, of Washington Township. "In Washington County and in Butler County their wells have been destroyed (by drilling). I know it's going to happen to us."

He was one of three residents who spoke Tuesday evening at a meeting in Washington Township where county officials gathered feedback on how they should use about $2 million from impact fees in the first year.

It was the second in a series of five meetings across Westmoreland to gather public input.

Future payments will increase or decrease based on the number of wells drilled in the county and the price of natural gas, according to state legislation passed in February that regulates the Marcellus shale gas industry.

The funds would be divided among the state, county and local municipalities.

About $1.3 million of the impact fee money the county will receive in December can be used for such things as tax reductions, infrastructure repairs, emergency response, environmental programs, safe and affordable housing, social services and operation of the judicial system.

"It's not a big chunk, but if we use it wisely then it can have a significant impact on what happens in this county," said Commissioner Chuck Anderson.

Washington Township Supervisor Joe Olszewski told the county commissioners that he would like to see a plan created to help municipalities coordinate with the county regarding emergency response to accidents or other issues at well sites and ensure a safe and adequate water supply in areas where wells are drilled.

Olszewski said he'd like to see some of the money benefit their township directly.

"I would like to see a regional plan to encourage development and growth in this area," he said. "We have the Westmoreland County industrial park that's in the township. It brings a lot to our township, and we would like to see that expanded."

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