Pennsylvania already has over 10,000 fracking wells. But with more pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure in the works, there will be a push for new drilling, some of it in communities that have so far been spared by the ravages of fracking industry.
But fracking can be stopped by local leaders, in places like Allegheny County, who are ready to enforce regulations to protect their communities.
A new Food & Water Watch initiative called the Municipal Ordinance Project (MOP) is designed to work with communities in their efforts to promote the development of protective zoning ordinances.
Why Zoning Matters
Communities pass zoning laws to regulate. Unfortunately, many municipalities do not even have ordinances governing where oil and gas operations can take place, while other existing zoning ordinances are out of date, or might not comply with recent state court decisions.
The fracking industry, desperate for profit, is increasingly looking to drill in new areas, including more densely populated regions such as Allegheny County. It is only a matter of time before the county begins to see a substantial increase in fracking activity. Before communities are put in harm's way, local leaders must step up.
Local Control for Local Safety
The best way to protect a community is to empower local officials to do what's right for their neighbors. Our recent survey of Allegheny County officials showed strong support for making drilling decisions at the local level. These local officials overwhelmingly said that safety and environmental concerns about potential shale gas extraction within their jurisdictions were the most important factors for them in crafting responsible zoning regulations.
We are working with community leaders to craft sensible regulations that will preserve the character of their towns, protect public safety, and comply with state law.
When communities fight, they win
The people of Oakmont are fighting back. Citizens to Protect Oakmont and Food & Water Watch are canvassing to advise residents of the dangers of seismic testing and to not permit seismic testing on their property.
On December 18, 2017, Citizens to Protect Oakmont and Food & Water Watch submitted recommendations to the Council regarding amendments to Oakmont’s zoning code that address oil and gas development.The Council adopted nearly all of the offered recommendations. You can view the proposed ordinance here.
“The Citizens to Protect Oakmont is working to educate and organize a stronger independent grassroots movement to challenge the threats to the health and safety of our town and surrounding communities by the oil and gas industry. The Pennsylvania constitution gives us the right to safe and healthy communities. We must organize to make it a reality.”
--Oakmont resident Ed Grystar
Like Oakmont, nearby Monroeville was facing both seismic testing and potential fracking. Last fall, Sustainable Monroeville and Food & Water Watch teamed up to successfully push the Monroeville Council to enact a seismic testing ordinance, and to revise its zoning code to limit fracking to just the municipality’s industrial zones. Previously, fracking was permitted in all zoning districts, including residential areas.
But a new Council is attempting to undo the zoning restrictions on fracking, and allow it in an area that is not appropriate for fracking. Sustainable Monroeville and Food & Water Watch went on the offensive and submitted a report to the Council to demand that the proposed ordinance be tabled. At the Council’s February meeting, the legislation was tabled.
Sustainable Monroeville and Food and Water Watch are canvassing the community to warn them of the dangers of seismic testing.
For more information about the MOP project, contact Douglas Shields (Western PA Outreach Liaison) at [email protected] or 267-428-1917.