Peters Home Rule Amendment Question Reaches Washington County Elections Office

The elections office now begins work on preparing the Marcellus Shale question for presentation to Peters voters.

With the filing of a petition to add an amendment to the Peters Township Home Rule Charter on the general election ballots Nov. 8, the Washington County Elections Office said a number of processes will take place to prepare the question that will go before the electorate.

Peters Township Marcellus Shale Awareness & Action filed the on Monday, one day before the filing deadline of Aug. 9.

Based on the formula that requires 10 percent of those who voted in the last election for the governor, the Marcellus Shale awareness group needed approximately 900 voters to have the question placed on the ballot.

County Elections Director Larry Spahr said the list of more than 2,000 names “would make it very difficult for someone to challenge the petitions on the basis of signatures.”

As filed, wording on the ballot question as proposed, would be:

“Should the Peters Township Home Rule Charter be amended to add Section 1.04 ‘The Peters Township Bill of Rights,’ which enumerates the right to water, the rights of natural communities, the right to a sustainable energy future, and the right to self-government; and which secures those rights by banning corporate gas extraction within the township and subordinating corporate rights to the rights of Peters Township residents?”

According to the elections office, a “yes” vote would indicate approval by the voter and a majority of “yes” votes would cause the proposed amendment to be included as part of the Peters Township Home Rule Charter.

A “no” vote would indicate disapproval by the voter and a majority of “no” votes would cause the proposed amendment to be rejected, and the Peters Township Home Rule Charter would remain unchanged.

Under the regulations of the ballot question, Peters Township and the Washington County Board of Elections are required to advertise the question once per week for three consecutive weeks, 30 days prior to the election, and a copy of the notice must be posted in Peters Township polling places on election day.

The county Board of Elections must also include the question in its official election notice.

As submitted by Marcellus Shale Awareness & Action, the amendment explaining the Bill of Rights is extensive, and according to Spahr will have to be written in plain English for it to be readily understood by all voters.

“(The amendment) will be written by county solicitors and will explain each of the (rights),” Spahr said.

According to the requirements, the explanation will indicate the purpose, limitations and effects of the ballot question to the people.

The statement is to be included in the notice of the election and three copies are to be posted at each polling place.

As of late Tuesday there were no challenges filed to the petitions presented Monday by MSAA.

The group has joined forces with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to place the question on the ballots.

The question is similar to one that will be placed on the ballots in the City of Pittsburgh, which was also supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Read more from Monday's council meeting, including council's 5-0 vote in favor of the amendments made to the the proposed-conditional use ordinance governing Marcellus Shale drilling, .

bigrigroberto August 17, 2011 at 05:11 PM
First you insist the PT language is legal, then you say you hope it holds up in court. It won't because it's NOT LEGAL. Read the ordinance and then tell me how it's legal. It flies in the face of state law. And when you say you don't want drilling in residential areas, that's all well and good but do you know the difference between R1 in Peter's and R1 in McKeesport? Or R3 in PT and R3 in Canonsburg? None of those are the same so how exactly are you defining residential? See the problem? But you are correct in that the language in the charter issue is identical to Blaine. They basically were saying municipal law trumps state and federal law. That is truly insane. So yes, the charter thing, even if the voters in PT are snowed over enough to approve it, will get wrecked in court. This is all a shame. There is a way to work with industries that doesn't have to be this contentious.
joe August 17, 2011 at 07:59 PM
suzanne, thanks once again. thank you for your efforts and for the services of Leslie Peters. You took this all on privately , you didnt try and steal the show at every twp. meeting. you didnt walk up to mike s. at the hearing while it was going on and whisper things in to his ear. You got involved and did it the correct way. You were even willing to spend your own money. The hard core group you spoke of only wants to spend the taxpayers money.... Thank You and who ever else found the middle ground here...
PTresident August 17, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Suzanne, your approach is to be commended. You spent your own time and money in pursuit of a community solution. I would feel much more comfortable if we had the involvement of a professional with natural gas expertise. We have many experts in our community and there are many more for hire. Don't we have some of the same problems as South Fayette? I agree with Bigrig. This is all a shame. We should either be trying to work with the industry or in Harrisburg working on changing laws.
joe August 19, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Is it true ? I heard that an application to drill for our first new well has been turned in to the Twp ?
suzanne kennedy August 20, 2011 at 02:06 PM
The drilling industry's comments that complying with local zoning laws is like applying for a driver's license in each town - pish posh! Every business must comply with local zoning laws - K Mart, Taco Bell, etc...... - and not just in PA but in every state. And KMart and Taco Bell have no state Oil & Gas Acts to help them develop! So the drilling industry's complaint is pure whining - it is not a credible complaint. Towns have zoning authority, and businesses must comply. The drilling industry has the PA O&G Act to help it develop, and the Act preempts municipalities from doing many of the things they'd ordinarily do regarding business approval. If KMart, Petco, Kentucky Fried Chicken and others can comply with local zoning laws, so can the drilling industry. They've got the $$, manpower, brains and incentive. Also, the O&G Act states rigs must be at least 200 feet from a building. It says nothing about increasing that set back. Some court cases have supported towns which increased the setback reasonably; other court cases have not supported increased setbacks. There is no clear answer regarding setbacks, and towns can make their setbacks as they see fit. If they can articulate the reasons for the setbacks, and show that drilling is still permitted, they've got a fighting chance in court. A lot of law is not black and white, but subject to interpretation by towns and courts.
bigrigroberto August 20, 2011 at 04:22 PM
"A lot of law is not black and white"...Um, yes it is. What isn't always black and white is the application or interpretation of those laws. To your point, how often is KMart asked to sweep their parking lot to ensure there is no trash? Petco isn't told to angle the lighting in their parking lot so it doesn't cast a glare on another business. And guess what--having the drililng rigs on a site is TEMPORARY...your comparison doen'st hold water, Ms. Kennedy. I think what they're talking about whenusing the drivers' license analogy is the fact that municipal government can attach different working conditions on the drillers from town to town. There is no consistency. That doesn't happen with the businesses you use as examples. ANd no, towns cannot make their setbacks as they see fit. Why do you think SF is going to end up in court??
suzanne kennedy August 20, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Ok - some good points, but I stand by my comparisons. My bigger point is the drilling industry CAN comply with local zoning rules. There is nothing so inherently different or complicated from town to town that the industry can't figure out. The consistency is in the O&G Act, which governs most of the drilling industry; it leaves local towns only the power of zoning and governing ancillary matters (sound, lighting.....) The industry is full of capable individuals who CAN comply with local zoning regs; they just don't want to. Compliance requires more time and review by their in house counsel or review teams. That's the crux of their argument, because time = money, and the industry does not want to spend the money on local compliance. Compliance with local zoning regs is not an undue burden, and does not deny the industry's corporate rights to drill. It simply requires a little more time and review. Come on - the industry can't comply with local sweeping regs? Positioning lighting properly? Of course they can! If not, how can they drill properly and safely? They are lobbying Harrisburg to eliminate local zoning regs because they don't want to incur the extra time and expense. Call a spade a spade. Regarding the temporariness of rigs: 1) leases permit drilling for a long period of time, and 2) nothing is permanent - KMart, Petco, occasionally close up shop. However WHILE they are in business they must comply with town regs. That's the cost of doing business!
PTresident August 21, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Am I missing something? KMart has a little less than 100 stores in PA. These were built over a long period of time. Gas well are being drilled at a rate of a few thousand per year. Over 100 drillers. Wells must be placed where they will actually produce gas. This is my biggest worry for PT. I don't have a deep understanding of the gas industry. Those who are involved in our ban/ordinance seem to have even less.
bigrigroberto August 21, 2011 at 03:13 PM
You're making my point for me. The drillers have no issue complying with regulations. But when they change literally town to town and, in most casese, hearing to hearing, it makes it a bit tough to plan their operations. What if you planned to sell your house and move from PT to say, Bethel Park..You list your house and find an interested buyer. But the town suddenly steps in and gives you a list of things you have to before selling your house. First off, you'd be stunned. Second, it throws a wrench into your planning. In the meantime, youve found a nice house in Bethel and the sellers don't have to do anything required of you in PT. See how that screws up your plans? There is no consistency. That's why there needs to be a statewide solution. if tonwshipswon't do it, Harrisburg should.
suzanne kennedy August 21, 2011 at 03:31 PM
PT resident - you are not missing anything. The PT ordinance/overlay map have 15 parcels which meet the ordinance criteria - over 40 acres, accessible by a collector/arterial street, and on the overlay map. So there will only be 15 drills in PT. These parcels are in residentially zoned areas. However, the criteria above should ensure the drilling is not too disruptive for the town. And the drillers must get leases from the parcel owners; they can't drill without leases. Big rig - your house sale comparision would be valid except fror one thing - the gas is HERE. Drillers are not going to pack up and go elsewhere because they don't like the local, permitted zoning regulations. The gas is HERE. That's why they are in such a tizzy! Local requirements do not "screw up plans" at all - they just make the plans a little more costly. There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on, but ultimately drillers must abide by local zoning regs. There already IS a statewide solution - the O&G Act. Drilling is one of the few PA industries which enjoys a state law to help them develop. The O&G Act removes many of the controls towns usually have. Drillers just have to learn to play well with others and share the sandbox with local regs. If Harrisburg seriously proposes revamping the Municipal Planning Code and removing zoning regs from towns, that will change everything in favor of drillers, but there will be LOTS of fighting if that is proposed!
joe August 21, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Suzanne: You touched upon a point I have asked many times. What if we sat down as a twp. council and had the conversation with the gas co, What could we do to work together ? How would they respond ? If you have noticed they ( Gas Industry ) have really been fueling a lot of the local charities... What would happen if a forward looking twp. would take this approach ? Would the gas industry may-be work with them to test a police car on being powered by natural gas ? Could that gas maybe come out of twp owned property ? Sometimes you just have to ask !!!!!
suzanne kennedy August 21, 2011 at 05:32 PM
Great ideas Joe! Think outside the box - I'd love to see that. I would not want to be "hoodwinked" by the industry in this approach, but it is definitely forward looking and creative. Natural gas as a fuel source is here to stay. Oil will be depleted within a few generations, so we need to prepare for that now, and develop a better stragegy for energy use. We need to be positive, careful, creative, prudent, and above all safe, in developing natural gas use. How about when all this antagonism, which is often necessary in order to raise the legitimate issues, settles down, we approach Council with some of these ideas? And I don't think the antagonism will settle down soon - definitely the ban charter amendment, and action in Harrisburg and at the federal level, needs to resolve themselves. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, and we can move forward with a good business, economic, safety, and development plan for our country's energy needs. By the way, that includes NOT shipping the Marcellus Shale overseas! That is definitely CRAZY, but right now the US Commerce Dept. regulates that activity, so there have to be some changes and federal requirements if we are really going to develop natural gas for our consumption, and not for sale to the higest bidder on the open international market!
joe August 21, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Suzanne: I agree with most of your ideas. Im a little lost at how we could keep from exporting it. ?? Do you think the majority of the twp is somewhere in the middle with this issue ? I would love to see the county ( By the way we are part of washington county ) work with the gas industry and local twps on a pilot program to try on municipal vehicles. I do understand there are some red tape issues to clear up for this to happen.Wouldnt it be great for one of these companies to step up and approach the county with such an offer ????
bigrigroberto August 21, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Miss Kennedy, i'm not sure what is "crazy" about Us companies actually exporting a product for profit. All kinds of businesses across the country export the things they make. Theproblem is, due to "crazy" ideology in D.C., over the lat 20 years, our trade deficit has gottenout of control. I think it's about high time we start exporting instead of importing. As for drillers working with the county, why can't the county step up and make some suggestions? It's not the drillers who are elected....
suzanne kennedy August 21, 2011 at 09:47 PM
It is a lie to say that Marcellus Shale drilling will reduce our foreign oil dependency if the drilled gas is exported overseas and not used here in the US. How will selling extracted gas to the highest bidder on the international market reduce our dependency on foreign oil? There is absolutely no connection between the 2 - gas drilling and reducing oil dependency - it is simply a sound byte. Selling it on the international market will increase profits for drilling companies and shareholders, but it will have no effect on our oil dependency. There are only two things which will reduce our foreign oil dependency: 1) reduce our use of it and 2) replace it with something else. The industry and politicians use the sound byte "reduce oil dependency - drill for gas" as a simple way of gathering support. But if you look closer you'll see it is fiction. Reality is that drillers will sell gas on the int'l market to the higest bidder, with no NO impact on our foreign oil dependency. We will be committing energy resource suicide if we extract gas here and then sell it overseas, to India and China for example. If we shoulder all the risks, we should enjoy the benefits; and not just the company/shareholder profits, but the use of natural gas to replace some of our foreign oil use. That scenario will require major changes in DC, Commerce Dept. and industry policy, but it can be done.
joe August 21, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Suzanne: I hear what you are saying.IF at township and county level we could encourage natural gas powered cars and with some kind of tax reward for the consumer to do so (state and federal),it will have an effect. I have been told that the new get-go stations will have fill up sites in their new stores for natural gas vehicles. Would it not be a great thing for our twp to strive for ? If only we wanted to work with these industry people instead of always trying to throw stumbling blocks in the way. The energy that has been put in to trying to keep this industry away would be of better use if put to the task of finding out how this could benefit us by working with the industry. I dont think our twp. manager will explore this. Some other twp. will have to do it first. That is thinking way to out of the box for PT.
bigrigroberto August 22, 2011 at 02:58 AM
Miss Kennedy, you are a complete ideologue. That's why your arguments make zero sense. I didn't mention foreign oil or our dependency on such resources. I was talking about commerce. And what is this "we shoulder all the risks" nonsense? Drillers take the risk, not the public. If you want to enjoy the benefit of gas or oil while doing none of the work move to Venezuela or Iran. That's how they do things in those countries. Here in the US, we still have a sembelence of capitalism left. It helps our economy when US companies sell the heck out of their products.
PTresident August 22, 2011 at 02:22 PM
When and where is the next PTMSA meeting?
suzanne kennedy August 22, 2011 at 04:03 PM
PTresident - I have minimal involvement with PTMSA, so I don't know when they meet; you can access their website at ptmsa.com and contact them that way. bigrigroberto - you are right - I mentioned foreign oil dependency, not you. I believe we should look at our nation's long term energy needs and devise a plan to safely and responsibly replace foreign oil with substitutes - solar, wind, fuel cell/hybrid/natural gas powered vehicles, reduction and conservation of energy usage, etc....We also must meet our energy needs with our own obtained, naturally drilled products. Capitalism to a certain degree; public interest and nation's independence/ strength to another degree. We can balance both, but it will take major policy changes on the federal level to institute something like that. Regarding shouldering risk - the public certainly does take the risk, in terms of environmental safety. If water becomes tainted by truck/containment pond spills, nearby residents are affected. Increased air pollution - everyone risks that. Escaped methane gas - risk borne by those whose water supply is affected. We will all shoulder the risks in drilling, including the companies (financial risks), and driller workers (health, occupational risks). Risk always accompanies activity - but the risks can be significantly minimized by a marriage of local, state and federal regulations, industry compliance, and industry innovative techniques.
joe August 22, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Suzanne: Could you fill us in on your take on PTMSA. ? Frankly they and their actions are an embarrassment to this township. You seem to have a handle on that organization that ran amuck. I know you were wise enough to leave when it started to go a little wierd. Please fill us in
suzanne kennedy August 22, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Hi Joe. I can't fill you in on PTMSA because I have not met with them since February 2011, after I and a few others agreed to hire Leslie Peters to represent our interests in getting a strong, LEGAL ordinance in place. We are very happy with the result - the mineral extraction ordinance passed by Council on Aug. 8. After a myriad of emails to some of the PTMSA members in February and March 2011, regarding Ms. Peters vs. insisting on a ban ordinance or ban referendum, I "dropped out' of the organization. Now I only hear about their actions from the public Council meetings, through their website ptmsa.com, and through their campaign to obtain signatures for the ban home rule amendment referendum. I know there are quite a few members, some of whom are very practical and reasonable, and others who are more passionate than realistic regarding the ultimate success of a ban. They have certainly, through their reasonable actions and also their in my opinion unreasonable actions (i.e. the ban amendment), brought to the public's attention the issue of drilling in PT. So that is certainly a positive outcome. Their website is available to anyone who is interested, and I think there is a section where you can email them to arrange a meeting or phone call.
PTresident August 22, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I was surprised to find that the PTMSA website doesn't list any information about their meetings.
suzanne kennedy August 22, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Joe, about your comment regarding gas fueled vehicles - I recall reading somewhere (PT Magazine maybe?) that PT is considering purchasing some gas powered vehicles within the next few years. I may be getting this mixed up with another town, but I think it was PT - rather forward thinking, eh?!!
Roger August 23, 2011 at 02:29 AM
suzanne, you may be referring to a recent story of Get-Go in Wexford and/or Cranberry that was planning to install two CNG refueling stations. I think Char-Valley Patch (Mike Jones?) wrote a story. However, the story was missing some major pieces. I wrote a response, suggesting the story be expanded to include more information. But, the author, nor any other reader, responded. My request fell silent. We do have some CNG powered vehicles in this area. Schwann food service trucks are frequently in Peters' neighborhoods. The odor is distinct, and easy to distinguish from a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle. The refueling process does not lend itself to "in" and "out." I believe some refueling procedures are 10-12 hours. Of course, this works well for idle fleet vehicles. But, not so much for private vehicles driving about town. I don't know why the lengthy time (one of my questions asked, but received no answer). The other major question is engine modifications. I have read that the mods are something like $3,000 per engine. Again, I don't know what is required and why the high cost. Spending this kind of money can make sense on fleets, where huge miles are accumulated, and service life is long. For the typical resident, driving around town, the cost is hard to recoup. The information is sketchy on CNG. Maybe somebody here has more. If so, please post links.
bigrigroberto August 23, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Miss Kennedy, i"m all for other sources of energy--when they become economical. Right now they're total losers and being federally subsidized to the tnue of almost $300 per megawatt. That's ridiculous and silly. Someday they'll work but that isn't today. Here's what I pitch to the ptmsa folks--I'll wave my wand and poof, no more gas drilling here or anywhere else starting this minute. Now what...clock is ticking...now what. There is no infrastructre in place for "alternatives", coal can't keep up, thanks to hippies we haven't built any new nuclear plants. So now what? As for the ordinance passed, hate to burst your bubble, but it IS illegal. You have to know the O&G act to see it but it won't pass a court challenge.
joe August 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM
Suzanne; Thanks for the info on ptmsa, I dont know of anyone that admits to being a member,except for the 4 that always try and steal the camera time at the twp.meetings.I have investigated natural gas powered cars, refueling by a simple home type device can take hours ,but not at a fueling station. Our legislators need to help us on this one... One other item we all seem to over look. These Gas co are here for the next 50 yrs or more. they have spent a large sum of money. they may take 20 yrs to get under PT. Im sure as a twp we will not have tryed to work with them even in that amount of time. And as far as pt and natural gas powered vehicles no forward thinkers there.covered it personally with them months ago. they need help from the state on this one also.
Deborah Miller-Gurchak August 23, 2011 at 09:55 PM
For information on energy - go to The Center for American Progress- Energy and Environment. I think you will find some great information.
suzanne kennedy August 24, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Thanks Deborah! I will check out the website tomorrow. I do like the way this blog has morphed from specific comments about the PTMSA charter ban amendment going on the November ballot, to issues involving energy use, conservation, exporting gas overseas, etc..........as all of these issues are involved, one way or another, with the general issue of Marcellus Shale drilling. I think this article has generated the most comments (120!) than any other articles in Peters Patch since it started in January 2011. Definitely a hot button topic around these parts!
Andrea Bosco (Editor) August 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Hi Suzanne, thanks for your comments. Just to be clear to our readers, we are a news site, and launched Nov. 31, 2010. I'm glad you're enjoying the site—keep reading!
Roger August 24, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Just to be clear, the site Debbie suggested promotes a left-wing position. The site is straight forward in their terminology about being "progressive." While the site may have articles associated with the topic, their position stands on the left side.


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