Western PA Township Votes to Require Conditional-Use Permits

Greene Township (Erie County, PA) supervisors have just passed an amendment to the township zoning ordinance requiring all new gas drilling to obtain a conditional-use permit before drilling a new well. A conditional-use permit means drillers not only have to file for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, they also have to file for a permit with the township as well, appearing before the board of supervisors and explaining, in detail, their plans—before a permit will be issued.

Under Pennsylvania law conditional-use permits by local municipalities are allowed, although in some areas where it’s been implemented drillers have left the area in protest, preferring to work in areas that are more drilling-friendly.

Greene Township supervisors now have a say on where oil and gas wells are drilled in the township.

An amendment to the township zoning ordinance was unanimously approved, 3-0, by supervisors Tuesday requiring drillers to obtain a conditional-use permit for new wells. The revised ordinance additionally prohibits oil and gas compressor stations and processing plants in residential areas.

Mark Road residents have complained to the township about noise from a gas compressor that has been operating in their neighborhood since late 2009. The new zoning regulations do not address that operation but can prevent similar problems in other residential areas, Township Supervisor Linda Cagnoli said Tuesday.

“Oil and gas companies now have to come to the Board of Supervisors and detail their plans,” she said.

“The property where they intend to operate will be posted, and any action will be publicly advertised so that neighbors know what’s going on and can comment on the application,” Cagnoli said.

The ordinance is not intended to prohibit oil and gas development, Cagnoli said. “It’s a process to see that it’s done right,” she said.*

*Erie Times-News (Oct 12, 2011) – Greene supervisors to consider new oil, gas regulations tonight