Here we go again. Yesterday, the Morgantown, WV City Council voted on new legislation that would “regulate” (i.e. ban) hydraulic fracturing. But this time, those sharp-as-a-tack council members have contented themselves with regulating it within their own borders.
You may recall that last year the same Morgantown City Council (pictured below) passed a ban on fracking that included areas up to one mile outside of the city limits in a blatant attempt to try and stop the fracking of two gas wells that sit about a mile from the edge of the city. A WV circuit court judge overturned the ban (see this MDN story). Since then, both of those Marcellus wells were fracked, came online, and somehow, mystically—there has been no water contamination or ill health affects of any kind. Who woulda thunk?
After the first failed attempt at a ban, Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla promised they would make a new attempt to ban fracking by using existing zoning regulations. True to his word, that’s now happened:
Morgantown may become the first city in the state to regulate natural gas drilling by using zoning ordinances. On Tuesday, city council unanimously passed their first reading of an ordinance that would prevent any hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, inside 98 to 99% of city limits.
Early last year, the city of Morgantown passed an ordinance that banned natural gas drilling within one mile of city limits. Not long after that was passed, the circuit court overturned their ordinance, saying only the state can regulate fracking.
Once the ordinance was overturned council went back to the drawing board and asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to see what they could do. Because there’s not much open space in the city and there’s a 625 foot buffer zone between drilling operations and an occupied structure, the commission came up with this new ordinance and presented it to council.
Council approved the zoning code 7-0, which will regulate the "Extractive Industry And Heavy Manufacturing Development."
The second and final vote will happen on July 3rd.*
No one seriously thinks a driller would, or even could, drill within city limits. But that’s beside the point. Morgantown is making a statement that the energy industry is not welcomed in their city. And so perhaps maybe the energy industry should simply stay away, no? And maybe those who support drilling should stop doing business in the city.
Here’s a picture of Morgantown City Council members (people that the citizens of Morgantown may want to toss out of office at the next election):
*WDTV-5 News (Jun 5, 2012) – Morgantown Making Another Attempt to Regulate ‘Fracking’