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Range Resources Challenges South Fayette Ordinance

The Southpointe-based company filed the 35-page document Tuesday.

A official said that while a recent challenge filed by Range Resources against neighboring South Fayette Township over its Marcellus Shale drilling ordinance will have the board of supervisors watching, it won’t deter them from continuing to consider a change in the way drilling is regulated in the community.

“The board still believes it needs to proceed through the process,” township Manager Don Genusso said Tuesday, held to determine whether the township will change its ordinance to make drilling a conditional use.

The township’s current ordinance allows it as a permitted use.

Southpointe-based Range Resources on Tuesday filed a notice of challenge of validity of South Fayette’s ordinance governing oil and gas drilling.

The 35-page document, filed on behalf of the company by its attorney, Kenneth Komoroski, contends that “Range is being deprived of its legal right to develop its oil and natural gas property interests.”

Range contends that portions of the ordinance are pre-empted by state law, and that the township is acting outside its authority by restricting oil and natural gas drilling activity through various conditions.

“While the oil and gas ordinance purports to potentially allow oil and gas development in six zoning districts within the township, the conditions of the oil and gas ordinance (most of which are pre-empted and several of which are unconstitutionally vague or ambiguous, providing the township with ‘virtually unbridled discretion’ to deny a conditional use application) actually prohibits all oil and gas development within the township, thereby depriving, without compensation, Range and the oil and gas lessors of property rights that are valued, in combination, at nearly $200 million,” the document indicated.

Komoroski has warned Cecil supervisors throughout the public hearing process in that community that many of the provisions being mulled by the board also pre-empt state law—and at one point said, if approved, they would be actionable.

But Genusso said Tuesday that the board “is cognizant that it has to step gingerly” around state law, and added that supervisors’ next meeting about the conditional-use provisions will be held next month.

Another public hearing regarding a natural gas development overlay district will be held Sept. 6, as well.

Regarding the challenge, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"Range—and the rest of the industry—is working with municipalities to responsibly drill for natural gas. Due to a lack of statewide standards, some have taken extreme and illegal measures like South Fayette. Sadly, these decisions leave us no choice but legal action, which is costly for local governments," he said. "It’s like needing a new driver’s license for every township, each with a different set of rules and in some places they’ve even banned cars. We want local regulations that demand a high standard for gas drilling, but they must be reasonable and predictable so that communities, regulators and the industry can plan accordingly for the betterment of all Pennsylvanians."

South Fayette Commissioner Deron Gabriel, however, thinks the township’s ordinance is “fair and reasonable” and will withstand any legal challenge. Gabriel also questioned whether two of the three members on the zoning hearing board, who he said have leases with Range, will be allowed to hear the challenge.

“I’m confident our ordinance will stand up to scrutiny,” Gabriel said. “I feel the laws support us. I do not thing there is merit (in the challenge).”

He added that it’s important for the township to protect the residential zones because new neighborhoods are continuing to be developed. He thinks the majority of South Fayette residents want their local government to protect their health, safety and property values from Marcellus Shale drilling.

Chartiers Valley Patch Editor Mike Jones contributed to this report.

James Protin August 17, 2011 at 11:13 AM
There are hundreds of really bad things that local governments should be protecting their residents health, safety and property values from. Instead of banning something completely because of misinformation or a lack of process understanding does not seem to be the path to take. Have the Commissioners sat down with Range leadership and had a discussion regarding the planned drilling operations and exactly what impacts those operations will have in the township? That is the path...collaborative effort that protects the residents and the environment while contributing a revenue stream to the township that can be used to enhance the residents quality of life. It can be done...
James Cannon August 17, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Mr.Cianfracco: Your implication that Range Resources' filing of an appeal to a local zoning hearing board is somehow reminiscent of the Nazi regime is ignorant, ill-defined and insulting. I am a proud combat veteran, and lost colleagues and friends while serving in Iraq. I have first-hand experience with the devastating effects of, and desperation wrought by, a totalitarian regime. When you trivialize such experience in order to dramatize your opposition to a particular industry, it demeans the sacrifice made by thousands of our nation's finest, some of whom I knew. While I understand there are people opposed to drilling, I've seen fascism, sir, and this ain't it. Please keep things in perspective and ease up on the rhetoric.
Amanda Gillooly August 17, 2011 at 09:50 PM
Jim, the comment was deleted. Everyone: Please remember there are to be no personal attacks and no inappropriate language on the site. Let's keep things civil, please.
James Protin August 17, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Well done Amanda...
Liz Rosenbaum August 17, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Just because it can be done, James, doesn't mean it will... i think the residents of South Fayette may want to rely on something other than corporate good intentions. sounds like the zoning board needs time to develop reasonable ordinances. good thing the gas isn't going anywhere.... Liz, KeepTapWaterSafe.org
James Protin August 17, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Liz I agree completely...I would want more than good intentions.I believe the South Fayette Twp commissioners are providing good government but I still can't believe that intelligent people talking over this issue with the best interests of all stakholders in mind can't find common ground and resolve these issues to the benefit of all parties.
Mike Jones August 18, 2011 at 12:50 AM
The problem with South Fayette isn't the ordinance, but the vast amount of areas that are zoned residential. Even rural farm areas are zoned that way because decades ago township leaders envisioned a growing community with new neighborhoods. State laws allow them to restrict from drilling in certain zones (same things happened in Scott and Collier). But it will be interesting to watch whether South Fayette holds its ground when this thing eventually goes to court.
James Protin August 18, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Excellent point Mike. Like most townships South Fayette started as farmland. Its difficult to fault those past leaders for having vision. The current leaders are doing their best to provide good government and protect the best interests of their constituents, and Range Resources, a very socially and environmentally responsible company is doing their best to conduct their operations responsibly and economically. This will be an important decsion...precedent setting.
Mike Jones August 18, 2011 at 01:17 AM
They were thinking about allowing "overlay districts" within some of those residential zones earlier this year. But with the off-year elections coming up, they tabled those discussions until next year. I wonder if that would appease Range if they're able to allow some areas for drilling.
James Protin August 18, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Mike that's exactly the point...come together around a conference table and have a productive dialogue. We're just sitting here in a few minutes and ideas are flowing.
Marc August 18, 2011 at 01:39 AM
Jim, What Mr.Cianfracco is referring to is the strong-arm tactics that Range Resources and other gas companies utilize by exploiting the outdated Pa. Oil and Gas Act. (Don’t get me started on that! Politicians accepting campaign donations from Range and others! Whew, talk about a conflict of interest! Range does not give them money for nothing! It’s payback time now! And we, as lifelong residents, are “paying” with permanent environmental damage, health consequences, and decreased property values. Thanks to Range, the “good neighbor”). If Range does not get its way with a particular township, they first threaten a lawsuit. If the township does not bend over, then Range files lawsuit. Despite their propaganda and rhetoric, Range is NOT a good neighbor. They are pros at dividing neighbors. And where are all the jobs??? Most are temporary and most hires are from out of our area. This whole Marcellus play is nothing but one large scam and sham on the mainly “ignorant” public who never took the time to educate themselves on the risks, both short and long-term of drilling and fracking and compressor stations.
Marc August 18, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Prior to the drillers coming, I paid less than $40 per night when my relatives stayed at the local motel. Now, due to the influx of industry personnel, I must pay more than $70 for the same hotel room. Now, how does that benefit me, a Washington County resident? Most residents do not own rental property. Furthermore, local restaurants, prior to the influx, were very eager for my business. They offered more and better specials, fewer lines, and higher quality food. Now, due to the influx, I am forced to wait in a lengthly line, pay higher prices, and am rushed-out. Now, how does that benefit me, a Washington County resident? Most residents do not own restaurants. I can go on and on (roads not repaired in a proper and timely manner, truck and well and compressor station noise pollution, being forced off the road because the larger industry-related trucks think they own the road that I live on), but you get the picture. This gas “boom” (no pun intended), is benefiting only a select few at the expense (both healthwise and dollar wise) of the majority of residents. Also, the PADEP is a totally inept agency who is vastly understaffed, underfunded, and mostly underqualified to realize the “tricks” being pulled and perpetrated at wellsites.
Alexander M. Cianfracco August 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Mr. Cannon, you honestly cannot tell me with a straight face that Range has not employed a divide and conquer strategy in this area. I've seen it with my own eyes. When is the last time you have tried to work with a town beyond threatening lawsuits and packing meetings with industry workers who had no clue why they were there? I'd like some specific examples, please.
Eric Belcastro August 30, 2011 at 02:49 PM
The following article is about the South Fayette / Range Resources ordeal. The Real Frackasaurus Coloring Book http://celdf.org/the-real-frackasaurus-coloring-book
Marc August 30, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Mr. Protin, you are either a shareholder, employee, or mouthpiece for Range. You say, " Range Resources, is a very socially and environmentally responsible company is doing their best to conduct their operations responsibly and economically." That is FAR from the truth. Range could not really care one iota about negatively impacting and ruining our lifestyle, environment, health, property values, etc. They operate with impunity in every area. After destroying your area, they simply move-on and continue their "good neighbor" practices. Please take your head out of the sand and see the reality of the situation. Talk to people who have become sick due to "good neighbor" frac ponds that emit carcinogenic compounds into the air. They have abnormal blood test to prove it! How about dead animals caused by drinking permanently polluted frac water? Also, many physically ill humans living by compressor stations, frac ponds, and drill sites. Bottom line is, we can get along without their gas, but we NEED clean water and air! By the way, this so-call "gas that is good for America", is being shipped overseas for higher prices in addition to being liquified and stored until prices rise. It is all just a game, scam, sham, etc., and we are the pawns. And all of the so-called local jobs - please don't get me started on that bit of lies. If you happen to own a hotel, restaurant, supply business, or are a lawyer - life is good. However, the majority do not and are suffering the consequences.
bigrigroberto August 31, 2011 at 03:12 AM
"abnormal blood test to prove it"...holy health issues, Marc-Man! Shouldn't they release that information to the public? Shouldn't those "abnormal blood test" (minus the 's' for the plural form) be on the front page of the NY Times with a headline screaming "Ian Urbina Was Right!"? So, are you going to provide that information or is it somehow classified? I would like to see the information. In other words, prove it.
Liz Rosenbaum September 01, 2011 at 03:13 PM
bigrig, i recommend you Google "Crystal Stroud"... Her story demonstrates why you don't know more about these holy health issues. there is, unfortunately, plenty of proof if you look for it.
PTresident September 01, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Liz, i recommend you Google: DEP study refutes Crystal Stroud's claim of gas well poisoning BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN (Staff Writer)Published: July 8, 2011
Liz Rosenbaum September 01, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I will... thanks
Gary October 17, 2011 at 01:40 AM
ON THE FRONTLINES WITH EARTHJUSTICE Earthjustice recently submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of more than 100 organizations in 23 states demanding scrutiny of the many dangerous chemicals used in the process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is used to extract oil and gas from certain below-ground formations and has poisoned groundwater in many places. earthjutice.org 202-667-4500 D.C. Office
Gary October 17, 2011 at 01:46 AM
ATTENTION LANDLORDS Real Estate Agents have been advising Texas/Okie workers as follows: Rent a nice property even if up to $2000 or more a month then rent out rooms to your co-workers. You'll end up making money! The ruined house is not mentioned when the workers leave. Keep those rental agreements tight!!!
Jerry D. Hill October 20, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Gary, I did a little research on your "earthjustice." As usual, I'm going to post links to verify my research. Your little non-profit organization is funded by George Soros. You just lost any credibility that you think you might have. Everytime I see your little postings I'm going to comment with these same links. Check them out. Earthjustice: Billionaire Financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute Gave At Least $5,000 To Earthjustice. (Open Society Institute Website, www.soros.org, Accessed 4/26/05) http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/GEORGE%20SOROS'%20WEB%20OF%20OBSTRUCTION.htm http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/GEORGE%20SOROS'%20WEB%20OF%20OBSTRUCTION.htm HERE is the story by PCFFA how they created IFR to get non-profit funding, namely, George Soros-funded Earthjustice to sue resource users. http://www.pcffa.org/fn-jul03.htm http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/fundingthedemise/TOC.htm Be sure and read this one that explains exactly what Earth Justice is all about. http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1233348420.pdf
Jerry D. Hill October 21, 2011 at 04:15 AM
Here is another one for Gary, Between 2004 and 2008 the law firm Earthjustice received $550,000 from the Open Society Foundations, a foundation Soros created in 1993, according to Internal Revenue Service records. http://www.capitalpress.com/content/jb-soros-sugar-122410

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