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Supervisors Hear Act 13 Update; Planning Director Departs

Moon officials discuss Marcellus shale drilling with special counsel.

Moon officials have until Aug. 14 to amend the township's oil and gas drilling ordinances to comply with a new state law that regulates Marcellus Shale drilling. 

Gavin Robb, an attorney from Tucker Arensberg who serves as special counsel on drilling-related issues, recommended that the revise the township's drilling ordinance to meet the standards of the new law. 

Pennsylvania's new Act 13 strips municipalities of the authority to determine where gas wells and drilling activity take place within communities, superseding any existing local ordinance that regulates drilling. The act also establishes a drilling fee for companies based on the market price of natural gas. 

"Now almost everything [in the Moon oil and gas drilling ordinance] is in violation with Act 13, including the definition of an oil and gas well," Robb said. "Starting from scratch is the way to do it." 

The act takes effect April 14, but because Moon Township has an ordinance pertaining to conventional gas drilling, it has until Aug. 14 to comply. 

Robb had been working alongside the Moon planning commission to an amendment to the existing gas drilling ordinance, but that effort was pending Act 13's passage. 

Last night, Robb met in executive session with township supervisors to discuss the township's potential legal options pertaining to Act 13. Other municipalities have announced that they will  Act 13 in court. 

"A number of municipalities have raised the question of challenging Act 13 in the courts," said Marv Eicher, chairman of the board of supervisors. "[Act 13] takes away from the municipality and we need to have some discussions on where we are with this." 

Robb advised supervisors during the meeting that Harrisburg lawmakers crafted Act 13 so that it would "persuade" municipalities to comply. 

"When you're looking at Moon Township and when you know that there is very likely going to be drilling in the near future, you would be subject to challenges," Robb said. "And there would be significant financial repercussions should you loose those challenges." 

Other items from the meeting: 

Township manager Jeanne Creese said planning director Marissa Gerkey is no longer employed by the township. Creese declined to comment on the reason behind Gerkey's departure, citing personnel confidentiality. 

Gerkey was  by the township in October and assumed the planning position in late 2011. Gerkey was the third township planning director hired by the township in the last year. She succeeded Thomas J. Connelly, who was hired by the township  but left the position several weeks after beginning work. 

Connelly was hired to replace Adam McGurk, who as planning director last April to relocate to New York City. McGurk had been employed with the township since 2007. 

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