Moon Sets Limits on Marcellus Shale Drilling
The board moves to prohibit drilling in areas of the township.
Marcellus shale drilling is banned in areas of Moon Township zoned for residential, commercial or educational uses, according to a newly revised ordinance approved by the Moon Board of Supervisors.
Drilling is permitted to take place in districts zoned for mixed use, research and technology, airport operations and open space, such as Moon Park or the Moon Golf Club.
Supervisors approved the measure in a 5-to-0 vote Wednesday night.
The township moved to revise its existing oil and gas drilling ordinance to comply with new conditions of the state's Act 13 law, which regulates natural gas drilling in the state.
Supervisors examined three versions of the revised ordinance; each providing various restrictions on where in the township drilling activities could take place.
The township's planning commission recommended a version of the ordinance that would permit drilling in all areas of the community other than residential neighborhoods.
Under Act 13, communities cannot institute an outright ban on drilling, said Gavin Robb, the township's special counsel on drilling activities.
"The more areas that you permit the activity, the less likely you are to be subject to a challenge from an applicant," Robb said.
Supervisors John Hertzer and Frank Sinatra said they disapproved of allowing drilling in the community's educational districts, including the campuses for Robert Morris University, the Moon Area School District and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School.
Moon Planning Director Adam McGurk said though several landowners in Moon Township have signed land leases with drilling companies, no individual or entity has applied for a drilling permit.
The new restrictions will apply to all properties regardless of existing leases with drilling companies, he said.
"(Property owners) are held to the ordinance the day they apply for the permit," McGurk told the board. "So as of today we have not received any applications, so the grandfathering in is not there for any of those properties."
McGurk also said the new ordinance only pertains to surface drilling. Horizontal drilling rigs, which cull natural gas from a well that runs parallel to the Marcellus shale formation, can extract gas underground from surrounding properties.
Moon resident George Jucha addressed the board at the public hearing, and expressed disappointment in the board's options on the issue.
"Sadly, I understand your predicament," Jucha said. "I think you have to permit it, even though I wish you didn't."