Newton Twp. hires consultant to aid in creation of drilling ordinance
Source: Scranton Times Tribune By Katie Sullivan Published: October 27, 2011
NEWTON TWP. - The Newton Twp. Board of Supervisors took precautionary steps Wednesday night to regulate gas and oil drilling, should drilling ever arise.
Supervisors unanimously voted to hire Jack Varaly as a consultant to help craft an ordinance addressing the issues of legal drilling sites, setback requirements, wastewater and sludge removal, noise limits and weight restrictions on local roads, should companies choose to drill in the township.
"We feel he would be a big help to us drawing up ordinances in our township," said supervisor Chairman John Pardue. "We can guess at what needs to be done, but he knows what needs to be done."
Mr. Varaly, a consultant with offices in Wilkes-Barre, has worked with four other townships regarding gas-drilling ordinances, three of which have been approved.
Mr. Varaly cautioned that the township's existing regulations would not be sufficient in protecting the township against drilling, simply because they don't have rules addressing the issue.
In addition to hiring Mr. Varaly, the board moved toward enhanced regulations, unanimously voting to approve an amendment to its zoning ordinance that gives the township six months to produce an updated oil- and gas-drilling ordinance.
Mr. Varaly said he will work with Newton's oil and gas commission and planning commission to produce a plan that will protect the township from gas-drilling damage, and hold up against litigation should a drilling company ever take the township to court.
Instead of flat out banning drilling, which Supervisor Ron Koldjeski said would open the door for litigation, the board was preparing regulations in advance so it would be in control in the event drilling occurs.
"This is about protecting the taxpayers," Mr. Koldjeski said. "Balance is the most important thing."