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Westmoreland

Murrysville fracking ordinance under review

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

While critics of Murrysville's current fracking ordinance may not yet know how much space will be required between gas wells and protected structures, one of their longtime suggestions — that the distance be measured from a well's borehole — resonated with council.

Municipal staff will bring back a version of the ordinance at next week's council meeting that specifies setbacks measured:

• From a protected structure to the edge of a well pad.

• From a protected structure to the center of a borehole.

That approach will eliminate the proposed 250-foot buffer around a well pad but will still show nearby residents the minimum distance from their home to a well pad and a well.

Critics of the current ordinance, which mandates a 250-foot setback from the edges of a well pad and a 550-foot buffer beyond that, have noted that there is no standard well-pad size and that a large well pad could potentially increase the overall buffer to 1,000-plus feet, more than twice the state's minimum requirement.

Paul Burke, general counsel for Monroeville energy company Huntley & Huntley, also pointed out in December that the ordinance's setback wording was not clear. The municipality's consulting attorney, Bill Sittig, agreed.

“What's really important is that there's clarity on how these dimensions are measured to show that these uses are being reasonably provided for,” Sittig said.

Huntley land manager Ed Valentas said that once variables like topography are taken into account, the square well pad diagrammed in Murrysville's ordinance is not a likely reality.

“I think there's a reason why every state and municipality where fracking has occurred has measured from the well bore,” he said. “Because it's a known standard.”

For Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison, measuring from the well-pad edge or the borehole does not matter.

“The real question becomes: what's the (setback) number?” he said. “Our goal was to create an area that was going to be protected.”

Council will debate how large that area will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Murrysville municipal building, 4100 Sardis Road. Meetings are broadcast live on Murrysville's YouTube channel and on local cable-access Channel 19 in the Murrysville area.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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