PennFuture Thursday announced it has filed a legal challenge to the zoning ordinance in Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County arguing it is constitutionally invalid because it allows natural gas drilling across all zoned districts.
Representing members who reside and own property in the township, live near proposed well sites, and have been harmed by the ordinance, PennFuture sent legal notice to the zoning hearing board dated May 27, 2016.
“Our members have twice fought applications for well pads to be located within a mile of the Fort Cherry K-12 school complex,” said George Jugovic Jr., chief counsel for PennFuture.
“The state Supreme Court has made clear that townships have a duty and responsibility to protect the public health of its residents, particularly its most vulnerable populations, and allowing industrial activities throughout the township fails to fulfill that duty”
The ordinance in question provides for the following with no differentiation in conditions to account for the varying purposes, population density, and other uses allowed in each district:
-- Oil and gas wells as a conditional use in all zoned districts;
-- Compressor stations as conditional use in agriculture, rural and suburban residential, highway commercial, and light industrial districts;
-- Oil and gas processing facilities as conditional use in agricultural and light industrial districts; and
-- Oil and gas metering stations as permitted uses in agriculture, rural, neighborhood and suburban residential, and highway commercial districts.
“Citizens, who moved to the area for its rural and agricultural setting, want the township to uphold the character of their community,” said Jugovic. “The past eight years of gas development has shown how the industrialization of the township has had a disparate impact on area residents.”
The township enacted its current ordinance on October 25, 2006, in order to accommodate entry of the shale gas industry, before the state enacted the Oil and Gas Act of 2012.
On December 19, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down portions of Act 13 that required local government to allow shale gas drilling across all zoned districts in part because industrial shale gas development was not compatible with all other land uses such as residential development.PennFuture’s challenge seeks to have the zoning hearing board declare the ordinance invalid and put a halt to the issuance of drilling permits until a new zoning ordinance can be enacted.