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Middlesex ordinance that allows shale gas drilling challenged

| Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, 11:15 a.m.

Two environmental groups and four Middlesex residents are appealing recent changes to the township's zoning ordinances that allowed Marcellus shale gas drilling in most of the township.

The groups claim the changes, adopted Aug. 13 by the township supervisors, are endangering residents' safety and health by allowing drilling in nearly 75 percent of the township, according to an appeal sent to the township's Zoning Hearing Board.

Those appealing are: Clean Air Council, based in Philadelphia, and Delaware Riverkeeper Network, based in Bucks County, along with Middlesex residents David Denk, Jennifer Chomicki, Anthony Lapina and Joanne Groman.

Zoning board Solicitor Mike Gallagher said he could not discuss the specifics of the complaint. He hopes to schedule an appeal hearing for sometime in November.

The appeal cites Rex Energy's development of the Geyer well pad in Middlesex, a source of controversy throughout most of the year. Opponents said the well pad is too close to Mars Area School District property, about three-quarters of a mile away. The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit for the well on Sept. 12. Work has started at the site off Denny Road.

The groups said that before the zoning changes, Rex would not have been allowed to put a well pad on the Geyer property.

Township Solicitor Michael D. Hnath said Friday that he suspects the drilling would have been permitted “under the (old) ordinance as an accessory use to a farm/agricultural use.”

Rex, based in State College, is working with local municipalities, emergency responders, the school district and others “to ensure that our operations meet or exceed the conditions outlined in Middlesex Township's ordinance and all other applicable permits,” Rex spokesman Patrick Creighton said. “We firmly believe that this challenge to the Middlesex Township ordinance is meritless and that the ordinance is both valid and lawful.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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