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Murrysville council seeks state input on drilling regulations

| Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

As the state Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Quality Board prepares to review new regulations for the oil and gas industry, Murrysville officials will wait to hear more details before moving forward with an update to their local regulations.

Council's draft of revisions to the Murrysville oil and gas ordinance — passed in 2011 — was placed into pending status late last year and sent on to the Murrysville Planning Commission and Westmoreland County planners for a 45-day comment period, which has come and gone.

Municipal planner Allen Cohen said council's choices at this point are to set a public hearing and move forward with the changes made in 2015, or make additional changes to the revised ordinance, which would be sent back to local and county planners for another 45-day comment period.

Council consensus was to wait to take any action and move ahead with what chief administrator Jim Morrison called “educational sessions.”

“We thought we'd build our base for moving forward, in relation to our ordinance, based on DEP's process,” Morrison said.

Municipal officials will look to bring a DEP representative to a future council meeting and discuss the department's process in creating the new regulations, which focus on the potential impact on public resources, containment practices and the protection of water resources.

Councilman Jeff Kepler said he would not only like to hear from DEP representatives but members of the regional oil and gas industry about what sort of best-management practices they plan to use.

“We know there are changes coming to the ordinance, so I'd like to hear what's out there before we make them,” Kepler said.

If the DEP's Environmental Quality Board — which next meets on Feb. 3 in Harrisburg — approves the new regulations, they will be sent on to the state Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 .

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