John Keppel, who spoke Wednesday on behalf of large landowners, said the gas companies don’t like part of the current language in the township's ordinance, particularly that drilling is considered a "conditional" use.
Keppel said the companies would prefer the ordinance list drilling as a “permitted” use, which he said the Economy and New Sewickley ordinances have. Harmony's oil and gas ordinance was created in 2011.
“They won’t even look at the township unless the ordinance is revised,” Keppel said.
Keppel said Penn Energy is interested in leasing some of the properties in Harmony. Companies start out by making contracts for mineral rights with landowners, and Keppel said the township, through Act 13, can also bring in money from fees on each well head that is put in.
“Consol Energy gave Greene and Washington County last year $26 million,” added Ricki Paul, owner of Harmony Ridge Golf Course.
"It will mean money to the community, and the township, and the county," Keppel said, "but they're not going to do anything he way the ordinance is standing right now."
Keppel gave the commissioners a petition for the change from the landowners whom he said together own about 500 acres in Harmony.
Solicitor Richard Start said the ordinance, as written, now requires companies to come before the board with their plans.
“Conditional use means an applicant first has to come to this board and seek the conditions of a conditional use,” Start said.
If the wording is changed, he said commissioners would not have the ability to analyze or impose conditions. Also, he said to amend the zoning ordinance is a 60- to 90-day process that requires a number of steps, including advertising and public hearings where community members can come and testify.
“It’s unlike amending any other kind of ordinance,” Start said. “...History tells us it will be long and lengthy.”
The commissioners will take the request under consideration.
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