A resident has asked the state Public Utilities Commission to review the township’s ordinance governing oil and gas operations—saying it does not comply with Act 13, Pennsylvania’s new law governing Marcellus Shale play.
In a letter to the PUC dated Aug. 31, Alan Rank of 1683 Reissing Rd., wrote, “As a landowner residing in Cecil Township I believe that enforcement of the current municipal ordinance has and will prevent the development of oil and gas from taking place. Continued enforcement of this ordinance is only the latest in a trend of anti-industry behavior displayed by the township's officials.”
The 32-page letter continued: “Even though much of the oil and gas industry has established Cecil Township as (its) home base of operations, injected millions of dollars into the local economy and brought thousands of jobs into the area the township has repeatedly acted in a hostile manner toward any oil and gas development taking place within the boundaries of the township. In addition to reviewing the ordinance sections I am also requesting that the Public Utility Commission withhold any impact fees that the township would receive until either adjudication can be made or compliance achieved.”
Asked about the letter Wednesday, Cecil Township solicitor John Smith shot back, saying Rank’s request was “without merit for a number of reasons.”
“First and foremost, Cecil's ordinance was drafted and adopted with the involvement and input of the oil and gas industry. In light of this, it is significant that not one company from the oil and gas industry has sought the PUC's review of Cecil's ordinance. This is likely for the simple reason that the ordinance does not affect oil and gas drilling in the township, which is evidenced by the fact that there are several operating Marcellus wells located in Cecil,” he wrote in an email. “Second, there is nothing to suggest that Mr. Rank is 'aggrieved' as is required for an individual residing within the township to request the PUC to review the Ordinance. Considering that no gas company has requested and been denied drilling that would include any of his property, Mr. Rank quite simply cannot point to any loss that would support this necessary requirement for seeking PUC review.”
Smith continued: “Third, considering that the ability of the PUC to perform this review function is one of the many issues currently on to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, there is serious question as to the ability of the PUC (an executive agency whose members are appointed by the governor) to actually act on Mr. Rank's request, which is a judicial function.”
Editor’s Note: To read Rank’s full letter, click the attached PDF file.