Jesse White, Pennsylvania State Representative for the 46th Legislative District, which includes portions of Beaver, Washington and Allegheny Counties, has formed a new Marcellus Municipal Co-op for local PA governments to band together as they tackle the tough issues of local zoning ordinances and laws to deal with a very active drilling industry within their borders. The purpose is to share information so each local government does not have to “re-invent the wheel.” The knowledge and hard work from one municipality with regard to Marcellus drilling issues can be shared with other municipalities.
Mr. White wrote this about the new Co-op in a recent editorial:
In 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made it very clear through several landmark cases that many aspects of Marcellus Shale drilling are to be regulated exclusively through township and borough zoning ordinances. Since drilling was actively going on throughout the region at the time of the decisions, local municipalities had very little time and even less guidance in formulating ordinances and policies to best reflect the wishes and needs of each individual community.
As the natural gas industry continues to evolve and expand, so too have the issues local governments need to address. It didn’t take long before local zoning hearing boards were staging marathon hearings on complicated topics like the location and regulation of compressor stations, processing plants and other issues no one had ever dealt with before. People have become divided, frustrated and scared as they see our small towns undergo dramatic changes practically overnight.
With the eyes of the nation focused on how we develop this industry in a responsible and responsive way, the moment has arrived for us to come together and face these challenges head-on. In an attempt to be proactive, not reactive, I have announced the formation of a Marcellus Municipal Co-op, a group made up of municipalities where drilling is taking place or could be taking place in the near future. Since we are at the epicenter of drilling activity in Pennsylvania, it makes sense to step up and develop the first cooperative environment to work together to develop collective solutions to our mutual issues.
Let me be very clear; this co-op is not designed to be anti-drilling, and it isn’t designed to be pro-drilling. The plain truth is the natural gas industry is here and isn’t going anywhere for a long time, and we need to work together to develop policies to protect our communities, keep industry accountable and try to promote an environment of cooperation and mutual trust.
I will ask the co-op to focus on issues such as ordinance development and enforcement, continuing education, community relations, increased communication, and public safety. These goals can be accomplished by establishing local natural gas citizen advisory boards to hold regular public meetings, developing standards for notifying local officials in the event of a safety concern, holding educational seminars for local planning and zoning officials and potentially hiring a local natural gas enforcement officer to make sure the industry is following the ordinances being passed by our municipalities.*
Those with ideas and suggestions for the new Co-op can email them to: [email protected].
*Beaver Countian (Mar 8, 2011) – Marcellus Municipal Co-op: The Time is Now
UPDATE – Mar 17, 2011
Below is an interview with Jesse White about the co-op, posted on CNN’s iReport website.