Trafford aims to quickly tackle drilling ordinance
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Despite a later start than their neighbors in Penn Township, Trafford officials could have a draft for a proposed ordinance creating some regulations for unconventional gas drilling within a couple of months, a borough solicitor said.
Though state law requires the Department of Environmental Protection to regulate the industry, borough officials can adopt an ordinance that would set local conditions for setbacks or areas that could be off-limits to drilling, Solicitor Chelsea Dice said.
Despite the absence of an ordinance now, a company is unlikely to be prepared to drill in Trafford immediately because of the permitting process on the state level, Dice said.
“I anticipate that we will be ahead of the game before somebody comes in here and says, ‘Hey, here’s my application to go forward and drill. You’re put on notice,’” Dice said.
Drilling has been a big topic in neighboring Penn Township, particularly in Level Green. Four Trafford Council members live within Apex Energy’s 3,000-foot radius for notifying homeowners of a potential drilling operation there, Councilman Pete Ledwich said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of children at Trafford Elementary and Middle schools would be endangered if an accident happened at a site in South Trafford, resident Ron Klingensmith said. He asked Council to pass an ordinance quickly to be “protective of all residents.”
“Without an appropriate ordinance, we are in immediate risk,” he said.
Once officials agree to the wording for an ordinance, Dice said, council can advertise it as a pending document, as Penn Township commissioners did in October. Under the law, drilling companies would be subject to the ordinance terms while borough officials continue to review it before final passage.
One difficulty that officials acknowledged will be the wording of the regulations pertaining to borough roads. Because Seventh Street and First Street are state-maintained roads, council won’t be able to impose strict conditions that prevent drilling companies from using them.
A ban on fracking — such as the ones in New York and Pittsburgh — isn’t in the cards, either. Though Pittsburgh City Council passed a ban in 2010, the ban still could be subject to a court challenge, Dice said.
“Just because you speed and you haven’t been caught doesn’t mean you’re not speeding,” she said. “Just because their ordinances haven’t been challenged yet, they could be challenged in the future.”
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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