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Townships Take State To Court Over New Drilling Law

SOUTH FAYETTE (KDKA) -- South Fayette Township officials are headed to court to fight a new state law that would allow shale gas drilling close by.

"Any time you're engaging in any heavily industrial activity with risks involved, why would you take unnecessary risks and expose children to those risks," Deron Gabriel, a South Fayette Commissioner, said.

South Fayette is the latest of five local municipalities agreeing to sue the state over Act 13 -- the new law establishing an impact fee and standard environmental regulations for shale gas drilling and related operations.

Along with Robinson, Cecil Township, Peters and Mt. Pleasant, South Fayette contends those regulations don't go far enough in protecting the health and safety of their residents.

Council President Deron Gabriel says safety zones of 300 feet established in the state law would not be sufficient to protect school children from an explosion like one last year in Avella.

"I think there were evacuations of up to a mile or maybe more than a mile," Gabriel said. "In those areas if you have something catastrophic, God forbid that would occur this close to a school, it would be a national catastrophe."

"The fee will be used by local governments, by the counties, and by state agencies that must respond to issues surrounding Marcellus shale gas drilling," Governor Tom Corbett said.

The state has standardized the regulation of drilling. South Fayette sought to ban drilling in all residential areas, but Act 13 allows it.

Over in Cecil, the township zoning board rejected an application to put a gas compressor station on a vacant lot, but Act 13 would permit it.

Township Manager Don Genusso says township residents have no say in the matter.

"We want responsible control over these operations," he said. "The state with Act 13 has taken that away from us."

Today, the governor's office defended the law in a statement.

"Act 13 contains the most comprehensive enhancements to protecting Pennsylvania's environment - our air, water and land resources - during the oil and gas development process in over 25 years. Numerous environmental organizations supported the passage of this legislation, and its provisions are regarded as a national model."

But a growing number of municipalities disagree, saying the state regulations don't go far enough in protecting their residents and their children and they're going to court to try to take that control back.

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