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Marcellus shale rules hot topic for Murrysville council candidates

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Loren Kase
Teresa Gildemeister
David Perry
Jeff Kepler
Joan Kearns

Murrysville council long has debated Marcellus shale regulations and council candidates anticipate future discussions as the municipality folds the local ordinance into the state's recently enacted law.

Five Republican candidates are vying for four seats on council in the May 21 primary — challengers Teresa Gildemeister and Loren Kase and incumbents Joan Kearns, Jeff Kepler and Dave Perry. The four-year terms run through 2017.

Among other issues, the council members elected in November likely will deal with how to tweak the Marcellus shale ordinance.

“The first term was learning to balance technology and potential impacts Marcellus shale will have to the community,” incumbent Jeff Kepler said. “I thought it was important not to stop. I want to follow through. Marcellus shale will absolutely be in Murrysville in the next term.”

Council approved its ordinance in October 2011. When the Legislature passed its law, Murrysville opposed because it would strip local governments' oversight of drilling operations.

“I think we did take a very balanced approach to how we modeled our ordinance,” Kepler said. “It was by far the largest task and took a lot of effort from a lot of people; we got opinions from the drilling industry and attorneys.”

Council President Joan Kearns said her knowledge and understanding of the ordinance and state law will be useful to move the municipality forward next term.

“We're working on an updated comprehensive plan,” she said. “I've been involved with the unconventional gas well ordinance since the very beginning and I want to follow that through. I think it's necessary to have continuity on council.”

The shale regulation is one of the issues that attracted Loren Kase, who served in the Coast Guard for eight years and is a manufacturing representative for a local company, to run for a seat on council.

He said his military background has prepared him to understand complex problems and address concerns, sometimes under tense situations.

“It's become difficult to sift through all this information (on Marcellus shale),” he said. “I think it's important to bring an objective viewpoint in on that matter. We need to do our due diligence that we understand the decision we're making and be able to justify it to the community.”

David Perry, who is seeking a second term, said the Marcellus shale ordinance and making responsible development choices will be his top priorities next term.

He said he has relied on his experience as a practicing geologist to understand and form educated decisions on development proposals.

“People move to Murrysville because of the green, leafy, rural-like atmosphere that we have,” he said. “It's keeping the small-town atmosphere, while being relatively close to large city amenities.”

Perry said he would not support large development projects that would shift that image but would endorse smaller upscale projects, such as the Bruce Spruce development on Route 22 that is expected to open this fall.

“I have a very specific idea of the feel that Murrysville should have,” he said, noting he opposed a mall-like development planned for Route 22 almost five years ago. “We thought that was inappropriate for Murrysville. The rest of Murrysville agree with the vision.”

Monitoring the development projects proposed for the municipality is equally important to challenger Gildemeister, who is a program manager for a research project at Alcoa.

“Murrysville is constantly growing,” she said. “We want to stay rural in nature, so we need to be diligent in making sure we grow in the right areas. I want to be part of that smart growth.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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