Pennsylvania has over 10,000 fracking wells. With more pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure in the works, there will be a push for new drilling, some of which will happen in communities that have so far been spared by the ravages of fracking industry.
With pro-drilling politicians in power in Harrisburg, the industry can be stopped by local leaders, in places like Allegheny County, enforcing local regulations to protect their communities.
A new Food & Water Watch initiative called the Municipal Ordinance Project (MOP) is designed to work with and support communities in their efforts to increase community planning capacity, and to promote the development of protective zoning ordinances.
Why Zoning Matters
Communities pass zoning laws to regulate what types of buildings or other structures can be placed in their town. As it stands now, many municipalities do not even have zoning ordinances governing where oil and gas operations can take place. And many of the existing zoning ordinances are either out of date, or might not comply with recent state court decisions.
It’s important that local communities examine this issue right now. The fracking industry, desperate for profit, is increasingly looking to drill in new areas. This is especially true for more densely populated regions such as Allegheny County, which has only seen a handful of fracking wells. However, based upon current leasing trends and market conditions, it's only a matter of time before Allegheny 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 local 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. And 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.
Our plan is to work with community leaders to craft sensible regulations that will preserve the character of their towns, protect public safety, and comply with state law.
With state officials pushing hard to expand fracking and build more pipeline capacity, the resistance to dirty fossil fuels will have to be led by local officials who are more concerned with protecting their communities than boosting corporate profits.
When communities fight, they win
In June 2017, fracking company Huntley & Huntley notified Oakmont Borough in Allegheny County that they wanted to start seismic testing in the borough. This is the first step towards fracking in the area. Food & Water Watch worked with community leaders and local elected officials to pass an ordinance that blocked the seismic testing from going forward.
For more information about the MOP project, contact Douglas Shields (Western PA Outreach Liaison) at [email protected] or 267-428-1917.