CHC Update: Dealing with Act 14, and long-term strategy

Greetings friends,
Below you’ll find a detailed update the CZ ordinance including timeline and next steps, an Action step, a brief summary of last week’s Steering Committee meeting, an update on other CHC projects and last week’s Steering Committee meeting, and of course, The Fracking News.

But first, CHC is co-sponsoring a movie downtown next week:
Carbon Nation: a documentary movie about climate change SOLUTIONS.
Wednesday, March 7, 7 – 9pm 
The Downtown Indiana Theater
637 Philadelphia St., Indiana, PA, 15701
Carbon Nation is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan, big tent film that shows tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national and energy security and promotes health & a clean environment. This free screening is brought to you by the Sierra Club, IUP’s ECO club, and the Coalition for a Healthy County.
Ordinance Update:
Last night county planners shared their plans for final revisions to the Conservation Zone ordinance under the new state oil and gas act, now called Act 13. According to county staff, Act 13 forces the planning commission to go about protecting the conservation zones with one, maybe two hands tied behind their back. Planning commission members seemed agitated and annoyed, perhaps at having to negotiate around the new restrictions after already having gone through the process once. It was frustrating for me to realize that even though both CHC and the county seemed to share the goal of making the conservation zone ordinance stronger, Act 13 is going to give us something weaker than we started with. A main sticking point is that Act 13 requires “reasonable development” of oil and gas operations in all zones.

That said, here are some positives in the county’s draft: 
  • Through smart definitions, there will remain a 500ft setback that’s off limits to surface drilling. Coal mining will also be prohibited in this area (currently it’s permitted). Compressor stations will require approval from the county commissioners in the Conservation zone. Processing plants will be prohibited in the CZ.
  • Aside from oil and gas operations, the protections in the conservation zone remain the same; other activities like junkyards, quarries, and heavy industrial use will continue to be prohibited
Bottom line negative: oil and gas drilling will be permitted in the conservation zone outside of the 500ft setback. This is weaker than the 1973 ordinance, which required permission from the county, and a public hearing. It’s a direct consequence of Act 13.
How did we get here – Take Action!
Last night I was reminded by a few of the members on the planning commission on how we got here,and what to do about it; they suggested I check out Marcellus, and then contact my legislator. I suggest you do the same; let them know how your feel about the influence of the industry on our legislative process, and how you feel about their Yes vote on this deeply flawed piece of legislation.  Find your legislator here through this link, here’s direct contact info for our electeds in Indiana County:

Next Steps and Timeline
Last week the Steering Committee met and agreed to pursue a strategy of cooperation with the county in working out the new ordinance under the restrictions of Act 13. It is to that end that we’re again working with our friends at PennFuture to help the county provides the most protection under state law.  If you’re reading this and have expertise that you could share in analysing the draft ordinance, let me know. The  planning office is open to suggestions on ways to strengthen the ordinance.
The County has until Aug. 13 to enact an ordinance or else risk missing out on the impact fee (another bad feature of Act 13), however, they are targeting much sooner. Expect the public hearing on the new ordinance in Mid-May, with final passage mid June. We’ll need folks there.
Of course, we’ll continue to keep you updated when there are opportunities to weigh in.
Steering Committee report back
In addition to deciding on a strategy of cooperation with the county, the steering committee also decided to:
  • Reserve a table for Earth Day @ IUP. Last year we collected 60 petition signatures, so it’s a great opportunity. ANY VOLUNTEERS able to help out?.
  • Support the Sierra Club’s campaign against Homer City Power Plant. To that end, there will be a conference call next week with the Sierra Club’s national staff to talk about how to close the plant and leave Homer City better off economically than it is now. Stay tuned for details on that call.
  • Start planning an in-person meeting of the entire membership of CHC to determine the long-term plan for the Coalition for a Healthy County. Let me know if you’d like to help plan for that, target date is Fall 2012.
A more detailed report back is attached. As a reminder, anyone on this list is welcome to be a part of our steering committee.

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