Plum residents joined a Borough Councilman in calling for the delay of a vote scheduled for Monday on the Borough’s controversial oil and gas zoning ordinance. The calls come as Borough officials delayed a response to an open records request filed by residents concerned about fracking wells proposed in the community.
This August, Plum residents learned that fracking firm Huntley & Huntley had proposed several fracking wells in the suburban community. After questions were raised about one well, Plum Council president Mike Doyle publicly stated there was nothing the borough could do to stop the project. However, there is evidence that Doyle and other borough officials were aware early as March 2017 that Huntley & Huntley was planning to place a well there.
Acting on these suspicions, a Plum Borough resident filed a Right-to-Know request to obtain documents related to the controversial MIDAS drilling site on State Rt 909. The request was filed in advance of a Borough Council vote on a new zoning ordinance that would create new drilling opportunities within the borough’s Rural Residential zoning districts.
However, the Borough’s request for a 30-day extension means the community will be deprived of this potentially key information if the Borough votes on Monday. Residents joined Councilman David Vento in calling for the zoning vote to be delayed until more information is known.
Councilman Vento expressed concerns that no one, including himself, was informed that the borough had received the PA DEP notice that was delivered to the borough. “I am troubled by the fact that some people decided to keep this information from myself and from the public.” said Vento. ”The March 15th PA DEP notice should have been provided to all members of the Council. No matter how you may feel about fracking in Plum, the public has the right to know this information. Now, I wonder what else has been withheld. All I recall regarding this site was a grading permit; it was never noted to me that there was a proposed well pad.”
Vento added: “We spent about 18 months developing a new zoning code for Plum. Fracking was never discussed in any substantive way. Now the Council, without the public appreciating what is in a 200-plus page zoning code that allows fracking in a residential area, will vote next Monday to make this law. The Council should delay this vote until we have the opportunity to see the requested documents and understand what is in the proposed zoning ordinance.”
“The fracking industry has a track record of dividing communities in order to advance their objectives. In this case, it seems Huntley & Huntley worked hand in hand with Plum Borough leadership to deprive the public of critical information. The Plum Borough Council should delay any further votes on fracking zoning until this information is released to the public,” said Doug Shields, Western Pennsylvania Outreach Liaison for Food & Water Watch.
The Right-to-Know request, filed by Plum resident Matt Kelso, asks for all correspondence between the borough and Huntley & Huntley. It also seeks information about Geokinetics, a seismic surveying company contracted with Huntley & Huntley, and between town officials and Penneco which had filed for a separate permit with the EPA for an injection well. The filing also requests all correspondence between the borough and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as well as information related to the drafting of the zoning ordinance in question.