HARRISLAND - As expected, the Pine Creek Township supervisors unanimously adopted an ordinance Wednesday to further regulate the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.
The ordinance was approved following a public hearing in which no public comment was submitted.
"It's for the regulation of the oil and gas exploration in Pine Creek Township, such as sound levels from compression stations, how close they can be to various streams, setback regulations of the oil and gas wells and where they can locate their sites," said Solicitor Bob O'Connor.
The ordinance will allow for gas wells in Agricultural and Open Space areas of the township, he said. Officials said yesterday they know of no current gas wells in the township.
O'Connor is also solicitor for Woodward Township, where he has drafted a nearly identical ordinance for consideration.
As was the case in Woodward Township, the ordinance passed has two minor amendments.
It changes the township's definition of "fracking" to include both gas and oil wells, but removes a requirement that all documents that gas companies forward to the state Department of Environmental Protection must also be forwarded to the township, the attorney said.
Instead, the township would only receive a narrative of the documents sent to DEP, he explained.
"Frankly, the volume of paperwork is absolutely enormous," O'Connor said.
The ordinance has been reviewed and recommended by both the county and township planning commissions, he said, with the county only having "some concerns" about the noise regulations.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," O'Connor said.
The ordinance requires prior to drilling of an oil or gas well, or a natural gas compressor or processing plant, the applicant must establish the continuous 72-hour ambient noise level at the nearest property line of a residence or public building. In default of that level being established, the default ambient noise level of 55 decibels.
The applicant shall not exceed the ambient noise level by more than 5 decibels during drilling activities or for a gas compressor station, or 10 decibels during fracking operations for more than 10 minutes within any one-hour period.
Other highlights of the ordinance:
- No oil or gas well site, natural gas compressor station or natural gas processing plant, or an addition to any of those sites shall be constructed within the township unless a permit has been issued by the township.
- Applicants are "strongly encouraged" to meet with township staff to determine the requirements and procedural steps and timing of the application.
- A map of the oil or gas well site showing all equipment and a location for vehicle parking.
- A narrative and map describing the routes to be taken for the delivery of equipment, machines, water, chemicals and other materials needed.
- A description of, and commitment to maintain, safeguards to ensure the township's streets used by the applicant will remain free of dirt, mud and debris from the operations.
- No oil or gas well site shall have access solely through a local street.
- The drilling pad shall comply with all setback and buffer requirements of the zoning district it's in.
- Security fencing shall not be required at oil or gas well sites during the initial drilling or redrilling as long as 24 hour on-site supervision and security are provided.
- Upon completion of drilling or redrilling, a security fence shall be in place, at least six feet in height, with lockable gates at every access point and have openings no less than 12 feet wide.
- Lighting should minimize the glare on public roads and nearby buildings within 100 feet.
- No drilling shall be allowed in the floodway.
- Oil and gas drilling in the 100-year floodplain is discouraged, but may be permitted if there are no other area provides access to the oil or gas deposit.
- No storage of chemicals in the floodplain.
Despite all these provisions, O'Connor said they may be moot if the state Legislature decides to pre-empt local municipal rules, including zoning issues, in favor of gas companies.
"It could be like Texas, with an oil rig outside your house," he said.
"See how much your vote means anymore," responded Supervisor Jim Moore.