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Judge to Rule on Marcellus Shale Home Rule Charter Question Next Week

Judge Pozonsky said Wednesday he plans to make a decision next week on an injunction request filed by Peters Township to not place the amendment on the Nov. 8 election ballots.

Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Pozonsky said Wednesday he plans to rule by the end of next week on an injunction request filed by Peters Township to not place the , proposed by the Marcellus Shale Awareness and Action organization, on the Nov. 8 election ballots.

Members of the Marcellus Shale Awareness group filed a petition with more than 2,400 names to amend the Home Rule Charter, to include a bill of rights and incorporate a ban on gas drilling within township boundaries.

Pozonsky said he hopes to have the ruling in time for any appeals that may result from his decision. According to Washington County Solicitor Mary Lynn Drewitz, the county elections office would like the decision before Oct. 12.

Drewitz, who appeared at the hearing on Wednesday morning, told Pozonsky that the “drop dead date” for a decision is Oct. 17.

She told the judge that printing has begun for all general election ballots, but the Peters Township ballots are on hold, pending the outcome of the hearing.

Several dozen observers were in the courtroom as Peters Township Solicitor William Johnson argued that the placing of the question on the ballot would be illegal, and would subject the township to lawsuits from individuals and gas companies. He also pleaded that it would be a violation of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, as well as causing the township’s drilling ordinance to be nullified.

Arguing for the Marcellus Shale Awareness group was Jules Lobel, an attorney from the University of Pittsburgh, who is working pro-bono for the group.

He disagreed with the township’s position, stating that the courts do not have jurisdiction in pre-election matters.

Lobel stated that currently there is no drilling and are no drilling permits issued in the township, and that placing the question on the ballot would not cause any harm.

“If the referendum passes, the council has remedies,” Lobel stated.

Both attorneys cited court decisions on ballot questions in Mt. Lebanon and Deer Creek that were eventually struck down. Lobel argued they did not apply to the proposed question in Peters Township.

“The threshold question is, 'What is the harm to place the question on the ballot?'" he said.

Pozonsky asked the two sides and said he intends to review both sides of the argument to make his ruling.

“I think it's speculative to assume that there will be lawsuits if this issue is passed,” Lobel said, post-hearing. “Everybody expected lawsuits in Pittsburgh, and it hasn’t happened. If it does happen, we’ll be prepared to defend it.”

Lobel said he believes there is no harm of placing the question on the ballot for voters to decide.

“Not only is there no harm for that, it’s a basic democratic principle,” he said. “The only way for it to be dropped is if there is an actual pending injury, and there is not.”

Lobel said the question is constitutional because it allows voters to have the right to clean water.

“It’s the citizens’ attempt to enforce their basic constitutional right to clean water," he said. "This drilling is going to destroy that right in Peters Township."

Johnson reiterated his position of the question itself placing the township in a dangerous position.

“If this is passed on the ballot it would place the township in immediate violation of the Oil and Gas Act, the Municipalities Planning Code and various Supreme Court decisions that allow for the extraction of oil and gas,” he said.

“We’re not here advocating for the gas industry, but we believe that we’ve adopted reasonable regulations within the parameters we are allowed. The effect of what’s been proposed in the charter amendment would be to repeal those and place the township in an immediately vulnerable position.”

Johnson said he understands Pozonsky's question of what harm would result from placing the question on the ballot.

“I understand his position, and it is an issue that the court has to address—there is a significant jurisdictional issue here," he said.

“But we think there is a cloud placed over the township by this being on the ballot, and if passed would place the township in an immediately illegal position. For that reason we think the court should grant the injunction.”

Pozonsky told Johnson and Lobel to have any other arguments and materials presented to him by Monday, and that he intends to make a ruling on the case by the end of next week.

“I don’t intend to delay on making a decision,” he said.

Stay tuned to Peters Patch for working details.

PTresident September 30, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Jet, Quantity doesn't trump quality. You've posted an unbelievable amount of irrelevant stuff. I'll just address the parts that are dishonest. The gas industry is controled by the states. Any state can shut down the industry within that state. NY has no drilling. Ian Urbina and the NY Times are in even more trouble than your Pitt professor. After his story, as you know, Pa was forced to test our water and disprove his claims of radiation. Yep, I'm paying for Urbina's dishonesty too! Water wells? We live in PT. Why don't you speak honestly about the number of wells in PT. You're not an anti-drilling activist? SERIOUSLY! and what science are you wainting for. Clearly you aren't someone who puts any importance on science. It's time for you, Charles and the PTMSA to PUT UP OR SHUT UP! You are passionate about putting my tax dollars at risk. Prove your commitment! What are YOU willing to risk inorder to ban drilling? As you know, elevated TDS come from many sources. Since the gas industry is no longer sending water to waste treatment sites you need to point the finger at the appropriate cause.
suzanne kennedy September 30, 2011 at 03:16 PM
PTMSA & CELDF drove a dishonest debate. When given hard questions, CELDF's response is "The better question is...." - a tactic to avoid answering the question. That might work with some people and Councils, but it WON'T work in court, as we will all soon see. Why wasn't CELDF's founder/attorney Tom Linzey in court? CELDF drove this with PTMSA consent. Linzey has said his purpose is ultimately to cause constitutional change. So why wasn't he in the thick of the debate on Wednesday? PTMSA pursued signatures for the ban amendment saying "This is NOT about a ban; it is about a right to choose." They didn't explain that banning drilling is illegal. There are no PA case which say banning drilling doesn't violate the O&G, or that removing corporate rights doesn't violate the US Constitution. How will the amendment be defended? PTMSA did not explain that passing the amendment will put PT at immediate risk of "takings claims" lawsuits. PTMSA tried for a long time to get Council to pass a CELDF ban ordinance. When that didn't work, they began the amendment issue. PTMSA presented it as a choice voters have - do or don't choose to change the home rule charter, without explaining that regardless of voter approval, the content is illegal. Public opposition statements are one thing; pursuing a legal agenda with no chance of winning in court & which will result in expensive monetary awards is another thing entirely.
Jet Miskis September 30, 2011 at 03:51 PM
My above posted facts are not "irrelevant stuff." What is your name; who are you; do you work for the gas industry? You pose allegations about Ian Urbina, the New York Times and Dr. Dan Volz yet you give no links to authenticate your claims. You said, "Pa was forced to test our water and disprove his claims of radiation." Ian Urbina took tests at the well heads of the great amounts of radiation. All black shales are radioactive. So, where is the radiation going? Do you know? I called the Penn. American Water Company and I asked what tests they were running and they refused to tell me. According to you, there are no problems with the waste water going to waste water treatment plants; Gov. Gorbett, the DEP and the EPA would disagree with you. There is supposed to be a drill site on Justabout Road, past the 2nd stop sign. The people who live around that bend, on Sienna Trail and Synder Roads, have well water. I studied Molecular Cell Biology and worked for an Environmental Consultant firm as a lab tech. running water quality samples. I'm aware that elevated TDSs (Total Dissolved Solids or "salts") come from many sources; however, the gas industry has confirmed these elevations as from their industry. Industry is catching up, check out Aquatech, which can clean frack water, http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/mostread/12-04-2010-AQUATECH-MARCELLUS-TECH---SAT-BIZ- Industry is getting in place to collaboratively work for the common good and this is good news.
PTresident September 30, 2011 at 04:22 PM
First, you didn't post facts. Second, I don't work for the gas industry and I don't have a lease. I'm insulted by the methods and results of PTMSA. If that isn't goood enough for you then don't read my posts. I've always used the same moniker. IaN Urbina: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/radium_tests_contradict_new_yo.html there are plenty more on him and his other articles, easy to find. Conrad Volz: google Pitt , search faculty, no Volz google for the many articles followed his demise " According to you, there are no problems with the waste water going to waste water treatment plants" Really? Where did I say that? How many wells? Your academic claims and you posts are hard to reconcile. I don't know you. Claim away! The industry already is working collaboratively for the common good.
Kim September 30, 2011 at 05:32 PM
PTresident, don't allow these people to get under your skin. We all see what is going on and their "spin" and "scare" tactics will not work. We are smarter than that.
PTresident September 30, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Thanks Kim, I appreciate the support.
bigrigroberto September 30, 2011 at 07:39 PM
jet, you "studied Molecular Cell Biology"? Really? What does that mean? You spent an hour on wikipedia? Or do you actually have a degree? I've heard you state you have a pHd in public more than once. Ok, what school? What degree? Second, I have to agree with PT Resident. I followed up on the NY Times baloney. That urbina guy is about as honest as the PTMSA--not very. Third, despite multiple people asking multiple times, you still offer zero facts. Why? Where is the water contamination? Where are specific examples of the air quality producing adverse impacts in humans? Where, wehre, where? I think you're just upset because people are actually starting to call out you and the other ten people in the state who want to ban drilling.
Jet Miskis September 30, 2011 at 08:49 PM
bigrigroberto, I will respond to your last post. I have never, ever, stated that I "have a pHd." You have clearly represented yourself as a liar in this case.
Jet Miskis September 30, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Or better yet, read what you want into this, "YOU LIE!"
Jet Miskis September 30, 2011 at 09:27 PM
Here, read this, would you call Stephanie and Chris Hallowich liars? I sure hope that Judge Pozonsky allows this "sealed lawsuit settlement" opened; then, you will see what's happening to people. Here's the covered up proof you want to see. What's that tell ya? http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11262/1175953-100.stm?cmpid=latest.xml Newspaper joins Post-Gazette in court motion Monday, September 19, 2011 By David Templeton and Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The Washington Observer-Reporter newspaper has joined the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's motion to open a sealed lawsuit settlement between a Washington County family and gas-well operators near their home. Attorney Colin Fitch, representing the Observer-Reporter, appeared before Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Pozonsky today to join the case, and the Post-Gazette did not object. Arguments are scheduled before Judge Pozonsky on Oct. 4. Stephanie and Chris Hallowich had claimed in their lawsuit that gas-well operations by Range Resources, Mark West Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners harmed their family's health and contaminated water on their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant Township. But during a closed-door proceeding on Aug. 22, both sides reached a settlement that Judge Pozonsky agreed to seal, which placed the Hallowich family under a gag order. ...
PTresident September 30, 2011 at 09:50 PM
My favorite! The Hallowich family could not say enough bad things about the gas industry. They had proof, an air tight case. DEP didn't agree but who are they? Then, guess what? They settled with Range and signed a non-disclosure! Yep! Why would someone with a winning case against a corporation settle? Why? Wouldn't a jury hand them the corporation on a platter? More importantly, why would someone with so much harmful information sign a non-disclosure? This woman was EVERYWHERE until she got her money. What happened to her need to inform? I, too, will be interested in seeing that settlement. What was Steph Hallowiches price? For Conrad Volz fans, I found some of the good stuff. http://junkscience.com/2011/03/27/pitt-prof-caught-offbase-in-new-frack-attack/ http://junkscience.com/2011/04/10/victory-lap-junkscience-com-knocks-off-another-junk-scientist/ There is plenty more on Ian Ubina, just google " Urbina radiation"
suzanne kennedy September 30, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Kim, PTResident and BigRigRoberto - I do hope that if the injunction is refused by Judge Pozonsky, PT voters look very carefully at the amendment, and examine the repurcussions of approving it, before election day. I also hope that PT Council offers a symposium of some sort to explain the amendment and the legal implications if is approved at ballot. The legal implications should also be posted on the township's website, the Almanac, and Peters Patch. l will definitely ask Council to do so, and I hope others ask as well. We need more than civil dialogue now - we need the LEGAL implications clearly spelled out long before election day, so those who enter the polls are informed voters. At this point, the only relevant facts regarding the amendment are the LEGAL ones - what happens if it is approved at ballot; what happens if it is not. Facts or discussions about fracturing, air pollution, water pollution, municipal rights, etc......are irrelevant and should not be part of any Council sponsored pre election symposium, public hearing, or posting online or in the newspaper.
bigrigroberto October 01, 2011 at 01:30 AM
I understand. I would add that I'm sure the Hallowich family is probably just as nervous. What happens if people found out they sold out for beans? I mean, that would clearly undermine the whole sob story they were telling. You know, the story that was never proven. By anyone. Ever. And Jet, you are the liar. You have said in public, more than once, that you have a pHd. Now you're saying you don't. did you even go to college? When I have more free time, I'm going to get the transcripts from the PT public meetings. And of course, I'll jump on YouTube. That stuff works both ways. Bottom line is, the anti-drillers are going to lose either way they go. As they should.
PTresident October 01, 2011 at 03:31 PM
I agree. In addition, we need to investigate the possibility of shifting the financial burdeon to those who chose this road for our community. We didn't vote for these people, most of us didn't sign petitions, we didn't hire that Pitt guy.
bigrigroberto October 01, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Miss Kennedy, I brought it up earlier and PT Resident mentioned it again--is there a way to hold people personally financially responsible for all of this? WHo has the petition list? I'd love to get a printout of everyone who signed it and then publicly ask if they really knew what they were signing. And yes, the Township should host its own meeting to walk through all of this, and not invite the PTmsa. But let's invite Jet and Donnan and the others who get up to speak at all the meetings and have no idea what they're talking about.
bigrigroberto October 01, 2011 at 03:53 PM
And Bob Donnan has yet to answer questions about what the pollution he causes. AS a landscaper, he pumps chemicals (pesticides, fertilizer, etc) directly into the water table. Oh, and I did some research. He's the guy who always talks about radiation. Well, did you know phosphate rock, which is the 5th largest mining operation in the US (strip mining and slag heaps) and used in common fertilizers, contains radiation? See--these people are all hypocrites. It's do as I say and not as I do.
suzanne kennedy October 01, 2011 at 08:10 PM
I do not know if there is a way to hold the PTMSA pro ban members financially accountable for this mess. I will ask attorney Ms. Peters that question, but my hunch is the answer is "no". This was democrary in action, albeit misguided and deceptive. Regarding the petition list, the Board of Elections has it, and I do not know if it is a public document. You'd have to contact the BOE about that. However, I don't think publicly disclosing the identities of those who signed will move us in the right direction. If the Judge denies the injunction, the most important thing we and township staff and elected officials can do is EDUCATE PT VOTERS! PTMSA got 2400 or so signatures for the amendment. If we can make sure we reach and convince more than 2400 PT voters NOT to approve the amendment at ballot, we will have solved the problem. That means 1) writing letters to Almanac editor and other newspapers, 2) speaking to friends, neighbors, co workers, and associates who live in PT, 3) helping organize and attend a public education hearing (I'll pursue this with Council after the Judge's decision), and 4) handing out flyers on election day near the polling places, properly abiding the law regarding distance from polling location, and ordinary rules of civility. That's really our best bet. I'm choking on these words, but we must do what PTMSA did, only better and with more forethought and honesty.
Andrea Bosco (Editor) October 01, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I've offered opportunities for anyone who's interested to write a Letter to the Editor on any opinion you may have regarding Marcellus Shale drilling. I'd be happy to publish it. You must provide your full name. Please feel free to email me at andrea.bosco@patch.com if interested!
Judy Thadddeus October 01, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Thank you for your support. Your offer will prove to be invaluable as we are joining forces with Suzanne Kennedy. You are correct, we need to start writing now if we are to win the battle against PTMSA.
suzanne kennedy October 02, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Thank you Andrea. We will await the Judge's decision later in the week, and comment on your Peters Patch article about it. I am happy to "join forces" with those in PT who do not want the home rule charter amendment to pass because of the litigation, large monetary awards to suing residents and site specific relief to suing drillers when they prevail in court. Regardless of our ultimate views on drilling, residential rights, and health concerns, we recognize this amendment is fatally flawed and if passed, will be challenged and overturned, and all costs and damages will be borne by PT taxpayers.
suzanne kennedy October 02, 2011 at 12:12 AM
I forgot to add - we are also concerned that if and when the amendment is passed, it immediately nullifies our current ordinance. When the amendment is challenged and overturned in court, PT will have no ordinance on which to fall back. PT will have to return to the drawing boards and pass another ordinance, with the required time frame notification for public hearing, etc......During that interim (maybe two months or so), it will be open field day for drillers. They can request permits and need only abide by the Oil & Gas Act regulations and nothing more. Among other things, the O&G Act requires drills be located no closer than 200ft from the entrance to any structure (including private residences). Walk 200 feet from your front door - that is ridiculously close! Without an ordinance, PT won't be able to require anything zoning wise beyond the dictates of the O&G Act, and that is a situation which can truly harm our community.
Judy Thadddeus October 02, 2011 at 01:49 PM
My neighbor hires a landscaper. They have dust and debris flying thru the air. I can't hear myself think. Whatever they are using has a horrible smell and makes my eyes burn. Who knows what that is doing to my health!
Jet Miskis October 02, 2011 at 07:17 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Jxw-HiEXE&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0GqbEcjOuY&feature=related Have the above residents of Peters Township had the opportunity to view these above youtube links? Please,......all of you.....feel free to view these and comment?
Judy Thadddeus October 02, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Two very different videos. 1) Kevin Heatley - A friend of mine once said "I can handle arrogant, I can handle stupid, I can't handle arrogant and stupid". That explains why I couldn't watch his entire video. He uses lots of general statements and zero facts. He speculates freely. I turned him off after he blamed the Katrina deaths in LA on gas drilling. Yes, you read that correctly. Says alot about his credability. 2) Sandra Steingraber - Surprisingly, Ms Steingraber is intelligent and well spoken. She speaks honestly about what is fact and what are speculations. I didn't have time to finish but will when I get a chance. None of this has any bearing on the legal problems that Ms Miskis is attempting to force on PT. Even if a ban was possible in PT, it wouldn't stop drilling from occuring right up to our borders. Jet Miskis continues to flood this site with videos but won't answer the relevant questions. 1) Why aren't you fighting drilling in Harrisburg where you could make a difference? 2) How are YOU going to pay for the large lawsuits that you are bringing to our community?
Jet Miskis October 02, 2011 at 10:16 PM
I've been to Harrisburg, twice. I've met with State Senator Pippy. I've met with State Representative Maher. I've spoken with Congressman Tim Murphy. None of them have held a town hall meeting in Peters Twp. to discuss this issue; I have begged them. Other legislators have held many such meetings throughout their districts. Why hasn't Council? State Senators and Reps can not do much concerning a federal act; that would be in the hands of Congressman Tim Murphy. He supports the drilling industry and has done nothing to even suggest amending the antiquated 1984 Oil & Gas Act. You will have to discuss the pro-bono(free) legal work of CELDF with them or PTMSA. Why don't you ask for a town hall meeting? It is my understanding (from attending the Honorable Judge Pozonsky's court) that there is not a single permit issued, no ground breaking of drill sites, compressor stations, processing plants or pipe lines; so, there is no drilling going on in Peters Twp. There are 100s, perhaps 1,000s, of leases signed throughout PA where no drilling activity has taken place for years. The vast majority of the 3 year horizontal drilling leases in Peters Twp. were signed in 2008; so, since no drilling has transpired, thus far, those leases have, or are about to, expire and will need to be renegotiated. There is no "Forced Pooling" and our public lands have not been leased; so, please, educate me, who's going to sue whom at this time? Threatening me will do you no good. Civility, please.
joe October 02, 2011 at 11:03 PM
I think we keep hearing "Benny & The Jet" playing the same old tune !!! (celdf & ptmsa)
Judy Thadddeus October 02, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Threatening you? Tough spin Jet, anyone can read my previous post. Civility? I must be missing something. Townhall meetings? Seriously, that's what you are asking of our lawmakers? Haven't there been dozens of those? How about asking them to change the laws that are so offensive to you? Peters Township can't change state laws. Who is going to sue whom? The drillers are going to sue us and the lease holders are going to sue us. It doesn't take a PHD to figure that out. You can't take away people rights without feeling the backlash. Same goes with our tax moeny. I
Judy Thadddeus October 02, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Also, you and PTMSA will have to take responsiblity for bringing those CELDF interlopers into our community. Peters Township didn't hire them and doesn't want them
Judy Thadddeus October 02, 2011 at 11:47 PM
The Oil and Gas Act is Pennsylvania . It isn't federal. Also, since you feel that there will be no drilling, why the ban? No need to pick a fight where one isn't needed.
bigrigroberto October 03, 2011 at 01:15 AM
Jet, for your information, Pippy DId hold a meeting in Upper Saint Clair last fall. Guess what? You were there. Again, you're totally dishonest. I can't wait to find the multiple transcripts from public meetings where you stated you are a "scientist" and have "a pHd". Why would you say that if, as has become obvious, you can barely read and don't even remember meetings you attended? You don't even know the Oil and Gas Act is a PA statue yet you started a website to affect that statue? This is insane. Keep hitching your wagon to losers like Ben Price and that hippie kid with the dreadlocks (yes, I saw the video from the Mt. Pleasant meeting). This is all going nowhere. And Miss Kennedy is correct--when this is all challenged and PT loses in court, the Township will have NO ordinance. Guess who will be to thank for the huge influx of drilling? You, Jet. You. So I guess we should all thank you for supporting drilling.

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