BY SUSAN PHILLIPS
While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court continues to deliberate the constitutionality of restrictions to local, Marcellus Shale, zoning regulations in the state’s new drilling law, a handful of communities across the Commonwealth are trying a unique approach to keep the industry away. “Community Bill of Rights” ordinances have been adopted by cities as large as Pittsburgh to ban fracking, and as small as Highland Township, Elk County, to prevent an underground wastewater injection well.
About 500 people live in Highland Township, a forested, rural area near the Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern part of the state. In January, Highland Township Supervisors passed the “Highland Township’s Community Rights and Protection from Injection Wells Ordinance,” essentially banning a planned injection well proposed by Seneca Resources. Deep injection wells in Pennsylvania require permits from both state regulators as well as the EPA. The EPA, which has primacy, is currently reviewing Seneca’s proposal but issued a draft permit in December. It’s unclear how this could play out in court, or even which court it would play out in, if it ever gets challenged by Seneca Resources.