Agency Urges Area Officials to Clarify Drilling Rules Puc Also Deems Fayette County Shale Laws Sufficient

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- In the state Public Utility Commission's first two advisory opinions on local drilling ordinances, there's some good news and some bad news for officials seeking agreement from the agency.

Fayette County's six pages of rules for shale gas drillers were deemed to be in compliance with the sections of the new drilling law that weren't overturned by a Commonwealth Court panel.

But an agency attorney suggests in a letter dated Wednesday that a northeastern Pennsylvania township should tweak its proposed ordinance.

Those nonbinding opinions are the first two out from the commission, which is tasked with evaluating whether local drilling rules fall within the parameters of Act 13, the shale drilling law that went into effect in April.

That duty was complicated by the July appellate court decision halting a provision that limited local zoning rights. Several other sections -- prohibiting local environmental laws and rules that otherwise conflict with state regulations for the industry -- remain in effect.

The commission said last month that it will begin responding to the requests for advisory and official opinions on local drilling rules, evaluating them based on the portions of the law left alone by the Commonwealth Court. An appeal to the state Supreme Court has been filed.

Two Western Pennsylvania towns -- South Fayette and Robinson -- are awaiting official rulings on their ordinances, which could prevent them from receiving a portion of this year's impact fee. …

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