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Experts: Zoning is local tool to regulate compressor stations

| Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fayette County and its municipalities have the right to regulate the location of compressor stations through zoning ordinances, experts told Marcellus Shale Task Force members and the public on Monday evening.

During a forum at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, Evelyn Hovanec, a task force member, asked why two compressor stations will be placed within two miles — Shamrock in Menallen Township and Dunlap, which is proposed to be constructed on county-owned land.

George Jugovic of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Air Quality said the county and municipalities can monitor the locations of compressor stations through zoning ordinances.

"It's up to the local townships and county," Jugovic said.

"We've been told that everything is under state and federal regulations, but that's obviously not the case," Hovanec said. "There can be special exceptions to the zoning ordinances. People are very uninformed about what we can or cannot do. People don't know what their rights are."

Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink, chairwoman of the task force, said the compression stations are governed by zoning ordinances. Commissioners Vincent Vicites and Vincent Zapotosky did not attend the meeting and are not involved in the task force.

"We have 42 municipalities in Fayette County," Zimmerlink said. "Ten or 11 of them have their own zoning, and the other 32 municipalities are under the county."

Zimmerlink said the purpose of the forum was to provide research, regulations and information for the public to formulate an opinion on compressor stations and take whatever action, if any, they deem appropriate to their state and federal legislators and regulatory agencies and to their county and local decision-makers.

Jugovic told the approximately 40 people who attended the forum that there are eight or nine Marcellus Shale compressor stations located throughout the county.

When a member of the public asked where compressor stations should be safely located, Joe Osbourne, legal director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, an environmental nonprofit group that has worked on air quality issues in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than 40 years, said, "As far away from people as you can put them."

Members of the public and task force applauded.

A Lake Lynn woman said a deep underground explosion occurred recently under her Springhill Township home.

"Come out to my house and sit on my porch and you can smell what I smell every day," she said. "These gas wells are ruining the air quality, our rivers and our water supply."

According to the DEP, 18 gas wells were drilled in Fayette County in 2008. A total of 55 were drilled in 2009 and another 19 the following year.

"The compressor stations are needed to force the natural gas through the pipelines," Jugovic said. "Each compression station can only pump the gas about eight or 10 miles, and then you have to have another one."

Jugovic estimated there are about 300,000 abandoned gas wells in western Pennsylvania.

"The federal government enacts standards regulating how much pollution you can have in the air," he said. "There are air pollutants that are produced by gas wells and compressor stations, including lead, ozone and carbon monoxide."

Since the federal Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, Jugovic said air toxins released by industrial plants have been reduced by about 70 percent.

"New cars are about 90 percent cleaner than they were in 1970," he said. "We have been making progress with the air quality standards during the past four decades. We want to make sure that continues."

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