Western PA Township Makes a Run at Banning Marcellus Shale Drilling Using Noise Ordinance

Administrators of North Huntingdon Township, PA (Westmoreland County), are attempting to control drilling in the Marcellus Shale within their borders. They acknowledge that Pennsylvania state courts have already ruled local municipalities cannot outright ban drilling, so the North Huntingdon planning commission is attempting to place restrictions that would greatly curtail drilling in the Township. The current draft regulations—yet to be voted on—focus on noise:

The draft assumes normal noise levels in a neighborhood at 55 decibels, unless well operators provide documentation of a higher level. Township officials would require a noise mitigation plan if well operators exceed it by 7 decibels during daytime hours, 5 decibels during nighttime hours or 10 decibels during the process known as “fracking” to extract natural gas.

North Huntingdon also is proposing to prohibit drilling on residential properties zoned R-1 or R-1A, two of its five types of residential districts.

Township officials also want to require well operators to conduct an inventory of road conditions and submit a road restoration plan because they anticipate damage to township roads.*

Interestingly, at the end of the same article, we get this closing paragraph:

Also Monday, the planning commission recommended conditional approval of a site plan for a 5,746-square-foot Sheetz convenience store near the intersection of Route 30 and Ronda Court, a private road that will lead to a new Wal-Mart.*

MDN wonders: When the new Sheetz and the new Wal-Mart are built, will construction noise levels in those neighborhoods exceed 65 decibels during the daytime? And if so, will the construction companies be required to erect temporary barriers to mitigate that noise?

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Mar 9) – Proposed rules on well drilling to focus on noise

  • Anonymous

    Why hasn’t there been much attention to noise being produced by the compressor stations? Once these facilities are up and running – with lack of noise mitigation where will the residences have a leg to stand on if there isn’t a noise ordinance in place. Producers in Washington County have to comply with a 60 decibel level at the compressor station lease line, and Lycoming County has a very good noise ordinance that restricts noise levels in frequencies. Drilling operations are temporary but compressor station, and process facilities are permanent.

  • Beth

    Why on Earth are these Pennsylvanians complaining and trying to get it restricted from their area? I thought Pennsylvania LOVED drilling and was having a wonderful experience with it? If it’s sooooo fantastic in all other aspects, I would think they could forgive a little thing like noise. Or…..is it really just not that great for PA residents and they will do anything they can think of to keep it away from their doorsteps?

  • Anonymous

    Do you know what a little noise is? Go to YouTube and watch many stories of what a “little noise” is. Compressor stations are running continuously 24/7 and can create a hum that will always be present. Imagine yourself sitting in your backyard enjoying a peaceful late afternoon and all of a sudden a diesel powered dump truck parks in the driveway of your house and leaves the engine running. Or worse yet, when you have gone to bed and that dump truck is still there. That’s how loud it could be without proper noise mitigation. The rural areas we live in here have ambient noise levels that are typically 35 dBA at night and 65 dBA during the day. 35 dBA is equivalent to hearing birds and crickets – 65 dBA is daily noise with auto traffic. By even adding 10 dBA it is perceived as doubling the noise level. I’m not against the Marcellus development I’m just advocating for proper noise bylaws.