Text and images © 2006 John B. Blackford. Do not reproduce without express written permission. All rights reserved.
Nockamixon Approves Drilling Ordinance
Board of supervisors also plans amendments to the ordinance

by John Blackford Bucks County Herald 5/24/06

Following two recent public forums on oil and gas drilling, the Nockamixon Board of Supervisors on May 18 unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate drilling in the township.

Until the ordinance passed, only federal and state regulations affected drilling operations, and these do not address noise or hours of operation, according to Supervisor Nancy Janyszeski. Thus it was important for the township to pass a local ordinance before Arbor Resources recieves a drilling permit from the state.

The Nockamixon ordinance as passed permits drilling in Residential-Agricultural (RA) districts but prohibits drilling in Village Center (VC) and Resource Protection (RP) districts. It also sets a minimum lot size of 12.5 acres for any drilling operation.

Immediately after the vote, the supervisors began work on amendments to limit hours and noise and possibly to increase the bond the driller must post for each application.

Proposed amendments must be reviewed by the township’s Environmental Advisory Committee, its Planning Commission, and by the Bucks County Planning Commission. Given the 45-day window for response allowed to the Bucks County Planning Commission, the earliest likely date an amendment can be completed is September, said Planning Commission Chair Bill Sadow.

Both Janyszeski and Supervisor Chair Jim Litzenberger praised the advisory committees that helped prepare for the vote, and Litzenberger cited the township solicitor’s opinion that no other township in Bucks County has anything similar to the ordinance.

Litzenberger said he had no idea going into the meeting how long it would take, and told a friend it might last until 1:00am. But because of the work of the advisory committees and the two forums they held, public comment went smoothly and the vote was completed promptly.

However, the township did get help from other townships. Environmental Advisory Committee member Stephen Donovan asked the Pa. DEP director of mining operations, Ron Gilius, for township ordinances that would help Nockamixon, and he recommended several to Donovan.

Gilius also suggested during the second Gas and Oil Forum that the managers of State Game Lands in Nockamixon might want to get into the action if recoverable amounts of gas are discovered. He said that while they might not drill in the lands, they could sign leases for wells near the game lands, since gas under them would migrate to the well.

Given the strong feelings about drilling, pro and con, the discussion so far has been very civil. One aspect of this is an undercurrent of Web activity that’s been taking place around the issue. For whatever reason, the Web-savvy residents are mostly on the “con” side, and they are using the Web to share information and lobby against drilling in residential areas.

Upper Black Eddy resident Marty Focazio has resurrected the domain name he owns, “nockamixon.com,” which he sub-titles, “Saving what’s left of Bucks County.”

He posed on the site: “It's amazing to me that an area that has seen the Boar Head Farm, the Revere Chemical Company, Uranium Mining, the Ferndale Landfill and who…knows what other affronts to the environment would still have a habitual disregard for the environmental impact of development on the community.”

An online petition created by Gary Westerfer opposing drilling in residential areas lists 85 signatures, including several advisory board members and Supervisor Janyszeski. Another site, www.nockamixon.us, has appeared with newspaper clippings and other information on drilling.

In short, the prospect of gas drilling has livened up the township even more than normal, which is saying a lot. This summer the various groups will attempt to hammer out consensus on placing limits on drilling operations.


Planning Commission Chair Bill Sadow estimates end of summer to finish amendments to the gas ordinance.
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