Posts Tagged ‘Ethics Commission’

Lehman Township says yes to gas drilling

Some residents oppose, but solicitor says only state can halt drilling operations in municipalities.

RALPH NARDONE Times Leader Correspondent

LEHMAN TWP. – Township residents will be getting a new neighbor when EnCana Oil and Gas USA begins drilling for natural gas in late summer.

Township officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve an ordinance allowing the company to start Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations near Peaceful Valley Road.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ray Iwanowski made the motion to enact the ordinance and Chairman David Sutton and Supervisor Douglas Ide voted yes.

Township Zoning Board Solicitor Jack Haley addressed a well-mannered crowd of about 70 people before the vote, essentially telling them the township was in no position to halt the company’s plans.

Some residents who expressed opposition wanted the supervisors to “send a message” by not enacting the ordinance, Haley said. That would have amounted to “civil disobedience,” he said.

According to Haley, all authority to halt drilling operations in any municipality in Pennsylvania lies in the hands of state agencies, not local governments. The township’s rules are “superseded” by the state Oil and Gas Act, he said.

The state Supreme Court already reviewed two similar cases, he added, and decided the only authority Lehman Township has applies to what roads EnCana can use.

Haley also addressed concerns raised that two of the supervisors, Ide and Sutton, have personal ties to gas drilling. Ide leased some of his own land for gas drilling, and Sutton consults property owners concerning drilling, Haley said.

Both members could only second the motion or vote yes but could not participate in any questions about the vote or make the original motion. The only supervisor who could make the motion was Iwanowski.

The state Ethics Commission checked into the potential conflict of interest involving the two supervisors.

Iwanowski outlined six conditions to the motion: that EnCana put up $13,540 to maintain Firehouse Road through the total time it is used; EnCana put up $32,192 to maintain Peaceful Valley Road similarly; all traffic related to the drilling traverse on Firehouse Road toward state Route 118; no traffic will go on Old Route 115 in the township (near the school); EnCana provide adequate insurance coverage for the township, and that a legally binding agreement be signed by EnCana holding it to its commitment.

No representatives from EnCana attended the meeting.

About 25 peaceful protesters were there greeting meeting attendees at the door with anti-drilling literature. Leanne Mazurick, 30, of Dallas Township, stressed the industry is essentially “unregulated.” She said residents in other communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania are having trouble with water contamination where there is drilling.

“We want safeguards put in place,” she said.

Karen Belli, of Dallas Township, and member of Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, emphasized a long list of ills that arise from local gas drilling. She pointed to homeowners in one local community have to use “water buffaloes” for their water supply because of the contamination.

Belli also questioned how Supervisors Ide and Sutton could be involved in the vote knowing their connections to the industry.

Not all in attendance were opposed. Barry Edwards, of Lehman Township, said the concerns about water are just a “harangue.” He added that in Susquehanna County the drilling companies have made the roads “better than the ever.”

Iwanowski said fixed-income elderly residents and farmers facing large debt are finding the gas drilling a financial “godsend.”

He said the ordinance allows EnCana to drill only vertically. If it wishes to expand horizontally underground that will require another vote from the township.

Copyright: Times Leader

Lehman Twp. postpones gas drill vote

By CAMILLE FIOTI Times Leader Correspondent

LEHMAN TWP. – Several residents worried about the effects of natural gas drilling attended Monday’s board of supervisors meeting hoping to have their concerns addressed.

In January, a hearing was held to vote on a conditional use application to allow EnCana Gas & Oil Co., which is partnering with Whitmar Exploration Co., to drill a vertical well off Peaceful Valley Road.

At that hearing, the zoning board decided to postpone the vote until Monday’s meeting. Board Chairman Dave Sutton told the residents who attended Monday’s meeting that a vote would again be postponed until the state Ethics Commission has made its ruling, and added the board could not address questions regarding the issue.

The Ethics Commission is checking into a potential conflict of interest involving two of the township’s supervisors. The commission ruling is needed to determine whether they can vote.

EnCana gave the board an extension to vote on the matter by May 1.

Once the Ethics Commission makes its ruling, Sutton said, a special meeting would be held in April to vote on the application and to conduct the Board of Supervisors regular meeting. The date and time will be advertised.

In other business, township engineer Ryan Doughton said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is in the process of redoing the county’s flood maps and is converting them from paper to digital format. He said properties that were once considered in the flood plain might not be and vice versa once the maps are completed.

The board also voted to approve the request for a temporary permit to the Wyoming Valley Striders for a foot race on March 31. The race will begin at 10 a.m. at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

Copyright: Times Leader