Council hears concerns about gas, oil drilling

Bob Simmons speaks at the Peters Township Council hearing Monday.

Peters Township Council heard from residents at a public hearing Monday about the latest version of the township’s unconventional gas and oil drilling ordinance that will limit the activity mostly to the western part of the municipality, which is zoned industrial.

Under the revised ordinance, unconventional drilling will be allowed on 138 acres in the area of Valley Brook Road, Hidden Valley Road, Buckeye Street and parts of Church Hill Road, said Ed Zuk, township planning director.

The revamped ordinance replaces the township’s previous mineral extraction overlay district, which would have allowed drilling to take place near Simmons Farm off Justabout Road, near Venetia Road going toward Finleyville and near Route 88.

Monday’s hearing will be followed by a vote at the Sept. 26 council meeting about whether to allow unconventional drilling in the township, something that has not yet taken place in Peters.

The ordinance will be voted on has a number of safeguards to protect residents. It will allow unconventional gas and oil development as a conditional use in the township’s industrial zoning district. It also governs the amount of noise, dust, lighting and hours of operation that will be allowed at drilling operations, as well as the routes used to go back and forth between well sites.

Energy companies must provide Peters Township Fire Department with a state-approved plan that identifies all materials brought to a drilling site. Companies also must provide training to emergency responders.

Bob Simmons of Simmons Farms said during the hearing he is disappointed with the latest version of the drilling ordinance, which will not allow him to profit from the lease he has with Range Resources.

“It wipes out the overlay and the potential of 18 family members to profit from drilling,” he said. “This could have been done safely with very little impact on the community.”

Raina Rippel, head of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which tracks the effects of the gas and oil industry on people’s health, commended council for limiting drilling to 138 acres on land that is zoned industrial.

“We are seeing respiratory problems, skin problems, migraines,” said Rippel, a Peters Township resident. “It paints a dire picture.”

If council approves the ordinance changes, they will go into effect within five days, said Paul Lauer, township manager.

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