Brady mulls options to prevent injection well|
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
By Josh Woods Staff Writer
LUTHERSBURG - Passing an ordinance isn't the answer to stopping the construction of a disposal injection well in Brady Township. Brady Township Solicitor Blaise Ferraraccio at last night's Board of Supervisors meeting said an ordinance banning the wells probably wouldn't withstand a legal challenge. And the time to pass a zoning ordinance has likely run out.
"It's with a heavy heart, as the solicitor for Brady Township, I would recommend to the supervisors they take no action in regard to preparing and passing an ordinance banning injection wells," said Ferraraccio.
Ferraraccio said he corresponded with Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors Solicitor Scott Coburn, Elk County Solicitor Tom Wagner, Clearfield County Commissioner/attorney John Sobel, Clearfield County Solicitor Kim Kesner and Jefferson County Solicitor Jim Dennison and based his decision on his research.
"Not one of them told me that in their professional opinion whatever ordinance we would pass here in Brady Township would stand the test of an appellate challenge."
If the township defended an injection well ordinance in state or federal court it would have to pay their attorney and the court could award attorney fees to Windfall Oil & Gas, Ferraraccio said.
Furthermore, Ferraraccio said none of the people he spoke to endorsed Ben Price or his organization, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. CELDF offered to represent Brady Township if it enacts an ordinance banning disposal injection wells.
"CELDF says we will represent you and we don't lose these ordinances when we go battle them," said Ferraraccio. "That was something that Scott (Coburn) told me was not true. They have been involved with Ben for a good number of years, and CELDF has lost court cases on ordinances they've put out there."
The township would have to pick up the tab for things like depositions and transcripts if it's represented by CELDF, Ferraraccio said.
Ferraraccio said the fact Brady Township doesn't have zoning laws hurts it. The Supreme Court will eventually give a ruling on ordinances banning disposal injection wells enacted by Pittsburgh area municipalities. However, even if the court rules wells can be banned under zoning laws it's likely too late for this approach to work in Brady Township, Ferraraccio said.
"I think all of us believe there's going to be a decision handed down by the EPA shortly," said Ferraraccio. "If we were to pass a zoning ordinance, I don't know if we would then be able to pass an ordinance banning injection wells. They would claim they're grandfathered in because they got their permit before we passed the zoning laws."
"We're looking at a $5.5 million sewer project, and we can't afford to make mistakes," said Supervisor Daryl Beatty.
Resident Darlene Marshall said she appreciates the effort the township has made to help its residents. She said she knows the township would continue to review information in regard to the proposed injection well.
Residents looked into a class action lawsuit, Marshall said, but were told there had to be damages in order to file it. Ferraraccio said, in his opinion, loss of property value might be considered pursuable damages.
A few residents suggested submitting information to the Public Utilities Commission. PUC, they said, could offer an opinion free of charge on whether or not an ordinance is legal based on language that appears in Act 13. Ferguson Township in Centre County is pursuing this avenue, Ferraraccio said. Ferraraccio agreed to speak with PSATS attorney Coburn about PUC's assistance.
In other business, Brady Township Fire Chief Russell Perks said the department has $200,000 it may put toward the purchase of a new truck. The company would have to borrow approximately $49,000, he said. The board of supervisors approved giving the department $10,000 from its Act 13 natural gas impact fee funds toward the purchase of the new fire truck. Chairman Muth also made a motion to give the township's annual donation of $3,000 directly to the fire department, and all were in favor.
The Troutville Borough sewer system might be started in or after April, Chairman Muth said. The sewer project bid came in lower than expected at about $900,000, he said. A few of Brady Township's residences are hooked into the new system.
Muth asked the board to consider whether or not it's interested in hiring a code enforcement officer. Muth said he spoke with Zac Lawhead who said he would be interested in the position on a part-time, hourly basis. Lawhead currently serves as Troutville's code enforcement officer.
A few ordinances are in the works, and Muth said he spoke with local law enforcement about their willingness to enforce them. Resident Glenn Schuckers noted surrounding municipalities are discussing a regional police force.
The board also approved:
• reappointing Ann Reitz, Libby Wingard and Alicia Freeman to the Park and Recreation Committee.
• accepting W.G. Satterlee and Sons bid for 600 gallons of 87 octane gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel conditional to the secretary clarifying the bid.
• assisting Troutville Borough with 2013 road projects, as indicated.
• ordering 100 tons of road salt for 2014.
• granting permission to destroy old records from 2005.
Brady Township's next meeting is Mar. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the township building.