Having attended most supervisors meetings over the past 2½ years, I and other residents often expressed our concern over the problems that go hand in hand with unconventional gas drilling, which include possibilities of water contamination, explosions, toxic air emissions, home devaluation and impacts on health near drilling operations.
When the Mars Parent Group began raising some of the same issues related to the Geyer well pad and its proximity to their children’s school, the Middlesex supervisors showed little support for the parents’ concerns. Instead, one supervisor expressed an attitude of not being willing to deny leaseholders their money. This last remark gets to the essence of the litigation. The role of the supervisors is not to guarantee the money residents could earn through private contractual agreements with a drilling company. Our supervisors took an oath to protect the health, safety and welfare of the entire community. They are required to adhere to the purpose of zoning as established in the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code, which is to separate incompatible land uses. The most obvious is the separation of industrial from residential land uses. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling on Act 13 is that it’s an industrial activity.
At a Middlesex Planning Commission meeting before the final vote on the gas and oil operations ordinance, commission members expressed discomfort with how rushed they felt in reviewing this ordinance. Consequently, the planning commission recommended delaying the vote until more time could be given to review the final ordinance.
Why the big hurry, one of the commissioners asked. Perhaps we need to ask why this ordinance is not in alignment with our zoning. The honest answer may give us a clearer picture of why Middlesex’s gas and oil operations ordinance is being legally challenged.