By Claudia Mosso
Additions and changes to the tentative oil and gas well ordinance under consideration by North East Township still need work, supervisors decided at their Aug. 15 meeting.
The township planning commission, which reviewed the document since supervisors’ Aug. 1 meeting, suggested three changes: that there should be no time limit for drilling; that noise levels be limited; and that changes be made to assist farmers who want gas wells on their properties. Several other minor changes were also suggested to clarify various requirements.
“Planners recommended there be no time limit for drilling,” Solicitor Robert Jeffery said. “I recommend that (the drilling time period) not be open ended.”
Ensuing discussion then touched on whether abuses could occur if no limit is specified.
“We don’t want to rush these guys,” resident Brian Sherman said. “Its not about the drillers, its about a balance. But we can’t let them drill 24/7, 365 days a year.”
“We don’t want to put an unwarranted burden on a drilling company, Supervisor Vernon Frye said. “But if a company is doing things right, we will not have a problem. The whole thing is to not have everything on a conditional use permit, but have it here in an ordinance.”
Setting the noise levels also drew concern. Planners suggested that drillers may use an ambient noise level of 60 decibels, measured at the nearest property line of a residence or public building.
Drillers should go and do the testing at individual sites rather than using a flat rate, it was suggested. “The method set is correct,” Jeffery said, “but noise levels need to be decided upon.”
Planners also recommended that a well could be 200 feet from a stream on a farmer’s land rather than 500 feet. However, the distance from a structure, set at 500 feet by the state Department of Environmental Protection, was recommended to remain unchanged. Farmers had requested that the distance also be reduced to 200 feet.
The ordinance is tentatively scheduled for adoption at the board’s Sept. 6 session.
No members of the township planning board recused themselves from discussion of the gas and oil ordinance provisions, supervisors said in response to a question from Sherman. The resident said he was concerned that one or more members might be receiving gas royalties.
“I don’t think that would cause you to recuse yourself,” Jeffery told supervisors. “The requirements are pretty clear. If someone worked for or owned a gas company it would be different.”
Supervisors also declared a 1979 Oshkosh plow truck surplus equipment, clearing the way for its purchase by another municipality. “We will now negotiate with them,” supervisor Gus Neff said.
In other matters, supervisors agreed to allow the North East Community Fair Committee to hold its wine judging at the township building meeting room Friday, Sept. 9 from 5 to 11 p.m.
A small flow sewage treatment facility was approved for Thomas Wheeler of North Brickyard Road. It will replace an existing septic system on the property.
Thomas and Sue Meehl, of West Law and Sidehill roads, were granted approval for a subdivision waiver for a lot on their property.
“The county unilaterally combined three lots with one parcel number,” Supervisor Vernon Frye said. “We’d never let them create that today.”
Supervisors set their next meeting for Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. The township offices and garage will be closed Monday, Sept. 5, for the Labor Day holiday.
Hydrant flushing has been set for Aug. 28 and 29.