South Fayette commissioners vote to limit drilling in township
No energy companies have applied to drill for natural gas in South Fayette, but the township has put in place restrictions in case that happens.
Commissioners amended the gas and oil drilling ordinance to limit drilling to areas zoned for industrial use — even though the township’s planning commission, many landowners, and industry experts urged them not to do so.
“It’s too restrictive, and you are going to open yourself up to multiple lawsuits — and I will be one of them,” Mike Cardillo, a lifelong resident, said before Wednesday’s vote.
Commissioner Lisa Malosh said it’s hard for her to support drilling in the Marcellus shale “until much more is studied and known about the long-term impacts.”
But the ordinance is “completely unnecessary,” argued Commissioner Jessica Cardillo-Wagenhoffer, the dissenter in a 4-1 vote. “The current ordinance we have is restrictive enough. I believe this is taking away the rights of properties.”
South Fayette’s ordinance had allowed drilling on land zoned for commercial, business or industrial use, or where economic development is planned. The township joins a number of communities with restrictions, including Baldwin and Baldwin Borough, Forest Hills, West Homestead, Wilkinsburg, and the city of Pittsburgh.
Washington County was the site of the first well in which hydraulic fracturing of deep shale, or fracking, was successfully used. Range Resources Corp. completed the Renz well in Mt. Pleasant in 2004. Range and several other energy companies have offices at Southpointe in Cecil.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has no record of drilling in South Fayette, spokesman John Poister said. Township engineer Mike Benton said the township hasn’t received any applications.
Cardillo was among about 80 people, including landowners and industry experts, who spoke at the Board of Commissioners meeting, most of them against the ordinance.
In May, the planning commission recommended 3-1 to reject the proposal.
Attorney Krista-Ann Staley of Babst Calland argued the ordinance “violates a longstanding, basic zoning law.” Staley represents residents John and Stacy Kosky, who own about 800 acres in the township.
Township solicitor Jonathan Kamin drafted the amendment in response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling on Act 13. The law had overruled many local drilling regulations until the state Supreme Court threw out parts of the law in December. South Fayette was a lead plaintiff in the case.
Alex Felser is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5810 or [email protected].