Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Impact Fee Revenue Could Be Withheld

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Impact Fee Revenue Could Be Withheld

Article excerpt

In its first official ruling since gaining new powers under the state's 6-month-old Marcellus Shale law, the Public Utility Commission on Thursday told South Fayette to revise its drilling ordinance or it will miss out on this year's impact fee dollars.

Allegheny County community officials said Thursday's decision and the $2,700 it puts at stake won't deter them from maintaining tight local regulations for the burgeoning industry.

"Our only consideration is protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the character of their neighborhoods," said Deron Gabriel, president of South Fayette's board of commissioners.

Mr. Gabriel said he viewed the decision as "more retribution" for South Fayette's opposition to the state law. The township is among a group of municipalities challenging the drilling law, which set statewide zoning guidelines. The group won on the key parts of its challenge at Commonwealth Court, but the state appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments Wednesday.

A portion of the law related to local zoning was overturned, although two sections regarding municipal rules remain in effect.

The PUC's ruling marks the first official review completed by the commission, which was tasked in the new Marcellus Shale law with determining whether municipal rules overlap with aspects of drilling already regulated by the state.

Three other towns -- Cecil, Robinson and Mount Pleasant in Washington County -- also have had challenges filed against their ordinances. South Fayette's ordinance was challenged this summer by resident and school board member William Sray, who has leased land to Chesapeake Energy for development.

Mr. Sray argued in his letter seeking review that the town's ordinance improperly sets reporting requirements for water withdrawals and hazardous waste disposal, mandates an environmental impact statement from operators, regulates certain types of air emissions and imposes standards for post-drilling restoration. …

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