Friday, February 11, 2011

Fitzgerald Wants Public Hearing for Shale Drilling

Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald says he wants a public hearing so that legislators can make public policy to ensure residents and the environment are safe when it comes to drilling for Marcellus Shale.

The legislation in question involves a regulation preventing drillers from being within a certain distance of a residential building. Two bills are up for Council's consideration and approval, one calling for a 500 foot regulation and the other 2,000.

Fitzgerald is in favor of having legislation to prevent Marcellus Shale drillers from being within 500 feet of a residential building. Pennsylvania State legislation currently calls for 200 feet, but Fitzgerald says that Allegheny County is different because it is densely populated.

"Two-hundred feet, to me, seems a little bit too close to a residential area. So, we might want to go a little bit further to give people a little more sense of security, and pubic safety."

Fitzgerald based his numbers and ideas on Lycoming County, which has a 500 foot regulation and according to him, has had more drilling activity. Only three wells have been drilled in Allegheny County since October. Instead of calling for a committee vote, Fitzgerald says a public hearing will provide a better perspective.

"I think it's important to hear from the public on what their concerns are and what they would like to see."

Fitzgerald knows that he will hear extremes on both ends of the spectrum, and opinions in between. He says that his goal is to find a medium that balances economic growth with environmental safety.

There is no date for the hearing yet, but Fitzgerald estimates that it will be in the next three weeks.

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