Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Council Reaches Consensuson Shale Drilling

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Council Reaches Consensuson Shale Drilling

Article excerpt

In a two-year effort to revise its rules on shale drilling operations, Murrysville council last week reached a consensus on a matter that has prompted much discussion - whether required setback distances should be measured from the edge of the drilling pad or from the actual bore hole.

Council concluded that a minimum protective buffer zone should be required from the edge of the well pad to any protected structure. In addition, an overall minimum setback distance from the bore hole to the protected structure would be required. Because the location of bore holes can vary on a well pad, the two-measurement approach is intended to ensure a consistent minimum setback from any structure while allowing flexibility in the placement of bore holes.

Council did not agree to any specific setback distances but is expected to decide on those requirements next week.

The municipality is trying to revise its ordinance so that it protects nearby residents from the impacts of drilling while not being so restrictive that drillers could challenge the law as unreasonable and exclusionary.

The current version of the draft ordinance proposes a 250-foot buffer zone from the edge of the well pad plus a 550-foot buffer zone to a protected structure. Well pads are typically 3 to 5 acres in size, irregular in shape and contain multiple well bores. That means the bore hole can be hundreds of feet from the edge of the pad and thus the total setback can turn out to be more than 1,000 feet from a structure, a distance that is twice the state requirement of 500 feet. For the same reason, measuring from the bore hole may create situations where drilling operations located near the edge of the well pad are closer to protected structures, exposing neighbors to noise, pollution and other negative impacts.

"The proposed ordinance is not objective and fair. There is a bias against property owners like me and oil and gas developers," Cindy Gessuale told council Jan. …

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