PA Municipal Leaders Say “No” to Proposed Drilling Law

Leaders from 44 Pennsylvania municipalities in seven counties met Tuesday night to express their concern over state legislation nearing passage that would strip away most local control of shale gas drilling. PA Gov. Tom Corbett believes most control for drilling should be handled at the state level, something the drilling industry also favors, giving drillers an even, consistent playing field across the state instead of a patchwork of regulations that differ from area to area and even from township to township.

But local municipal leaders maintain a “one size fits all” is not the answer—that local leaders and the citizens they represent should have a say on which areas in their locales should be industrialized and which should not, and what restrictions they want to place on drilling activities. Their point: Who knows better the local character and conditions than municipal leaders, who answer to local voters?

The meeting on Tuesday night was intended to send a loud and clear message to PA legislators that the bills in their present form are not acceptable.

Representatives from more than 44 municipalities in seven counties met Tuesday night in Green Tree for a first-of-its-kind Marcellus Shale town hall meeting to address legislation that is pending in the state House and Senate.

Their message to lawmakers?

Don’t take away our local control.

"We want to send a clear, unified message to Harrisburg that we are opposed to any language that would pre-empt municipalities," said Robinson Manager Richard Ward. "Pre-emption is not an option."

Earlier this month, both the Senate and House passed shale-related bills that would eliminate local governments’ power to regulate most aspects of gas well drilling and its related infrastructure, such as compressor stations and processing plants.

Legislators have been trying to hammer out a compromise before year’s end to send to Gov. Tom Corbett, who favors state control.

…representatives attending the meeting at the Green Tree municipal center, from as far north as Cranberry in Butler County to Greene Township in southern Greene County, say that even the state Supreme Court as late as 2009 recognized the role of local officials in determining where drilling activities should take place in their towns.

"How can anybody who isn’t a resident or a stakeholder in a municipality know better than the people who live there what they need?" said Peters Councilman David Ball. "One-size-fits all legislation is not an answer."

The proposed legislation "ignores the input of local governments," Mr. Ball said. "Local governments have not been consulted in this process."*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec 14, 2011) – Municipal officials decry state control of shale drilling