Monday, August 9, 2010

What Can NEPA Zoning Officials Really Do?

Today, the Citizen's Voice is running an article on the Luzerne County Zoning Board and its actions in regard to Encana Oil & Gas. The title reads 'local officials retain some power over drilling." 

"We - local land use authorities - can regulate the 'where;' we cannot regulate the 'how.' That power, to regulate the 'how' of natural gas drilling, rests entirely with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Larry Newman said after last week's hearing on granting Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. conditional use to drill 10 natural gas wells in Lake and Fairmount townships.

Municipal and county planning and zoning authorities do have some say in the matter of natural gas drilling in their communities, state officials say.  "They're not completely pre-empted by any means under state law," Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said. "They do have a role."

Having just attended the Encana slam-dunk, my impression of the zoning board was that they were intelligent, polite and at least somewhat concerned about the threats Fracking pose. When they said they were powerless, I believed them.  Then I did my homework.

Numerous zoning boards have said no to fracking and some have taken the battle as far as the supreme court.  They are not all successful.  They do demonstrate, however, a commitment to the public trust - something our board seems to lack.  

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