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Local Town’s Drilling Ordinances Questioned

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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SOUTH FAYETTE COUNTY (KDKA) — These are boom times for shale gas exploration but towns and municipalities like South Fayette Township are concerned that it should be controlled and limited, adopting zoning ordinances that would keep drilling away from schools and residential areas.

“If you own property, if you breathe the air, if you live in Pennsylvanian this affects you,” said South Fayette Township attorney Jonathan Kamin.

But the owner of an abandoned airport strip says South Fayette’s ordinance is so restrictive it will not allow drilling even in the remotes spot.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “There’s nothing up here.”

John Kosky: “Petty much of a wide open 800 acres up here.”

Sheehan: “And you’re not going to impact any schools — and residents.”

Kosky: “No closest resident would be 2,500 feet away, plus.”

In a case will likely test similar ordinances throughout the state — Kosky and the gas exploration company Range Resources are challenging South Fayette’s ordinance, calling it an illegal ban on drilling.

Even though Kosky’s property is industrial — South Fayette doesn’t allow drilling within 1,500 feet of a stream.

Kosky: “That nullifies the entire piece of property.”

Sheehan: “Is that fair?”

Kosky: “I don’t believe it’s fair. We own the property. We own the resources — I think that makes it a little overly restrictive for us.”

“Their goal is to throw the ordnance out so they can ignore all the rules and do whatever they want,” Kamin said.

South Fayette was one of the lead plaintiffs in the case against Act 13 — which established a statewide setbacks and would have trumped all local zoning ordinance.

The state supreme court recently tossed out Act 13, giving control back to the municipalities. And Kamin says South Fayette is in its rights to protect homes, school and waterways.

“And we’re not going to end up like west Virginia with 300,000 people who can’t drink water,” he said.

But without a state law and statewide restrictions, that battle over shale gas drilling will be fought out town-to-town, but all bets are that this will eventually be decided by the courts.

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