Statewide Gas Drilling Regulations Up in the Air

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A state court recently struck down a law calling for uniform regulations across the state for the natural gas industry.

That means any changes townships or boroughs planned to make to their local laws are on hold.

Until last week, a new state law called for the same regulations for the natural gas industry in communities across Pennsylvania, Then, a state court found the law unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, townships and boroughs, including Chapman Township near Renovo, Clinton County, had to put any plans to change its zoning laws on hold.

"We had some regulation here, not as much as other municipalities. But we do have some, we felt it was for the good of our community," said township supervisor Tim Horner.

Until the State Supreme Court hears an appeal on the issue, regulations already in place will limit where gas companies can drill, said Horner. In the end, it maintains local control.

"I still feel there has to be some uniformity, they may have gone beyond where they should have. The courts will determine that in the end," added Horner.

More than 50 well sites have been permitted within the Chapman Township borders, many are on state forest land. Compressor stations from time to time can create a lot of noise, and those kinds of things are what zoning regulations can address from township to township.

"I look at this as a victory. It will go back to the appeals. We have to prepare one way or another for it," said Clinton County Commissioner Joel Long, a Democrat.

Clinton County commissioners said the county oversees zoning for a number of townships, so the planning commission has a stack of changes ready to go once the highest court in the state rules on the issue.

"It's quite a bit of work, you can say it's all part of doing business in county government in Pennsylvania," added Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz, a Republican.

The State Supreme Court could review the appeal as early as October.