CONNOQUENESSING — Borough council Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban natural gas drilling on residential property, but first it had to overturn a mayoral veto on the amended ordinance.
The amended zoning ordinance restricts natural gas drilling to agricultural zones in the borough and places numerous safety regulations on drilling.
The five-member council voted March 4 to amend the ordinance to establish the new standards for oil and gas operations.
Mayor Harold Rader said at last month’s council meeting that he would veto the version of the ordinance.
Rader did that Tuesday night.
“We, as council, signed a lease with Rex Energy,” he said. “We, as a council, took their money. You have a five-year lease with that company.”
Council signed a five-year deal with Rex Energy in 2010 to lease the mineral rights on 21 of its acres for about $21,000.
There is one gas well pad in the borough. It is on property at the intersection of Route 68 and Constitution Avenue. One of the three horizontal wells extending from the pad runs under borough property.
Councilman Francis Smith said the borough had no say in whether companies would drill in the borough when council made the deal.
“Back before Christmas, before they overturned Act 13, we didn’t have any say in it,” he said. “Now we are in a position where we can at least mitigate how much harm will come from these wells.”
Council President Lloyd Leslie said the ordinance simply gives the borough the ability to regulate the industry.
“All we’re doing in the ordinance is setting up parameters,” he said. “It doesn’t say you can’t drill, you can’t frack, just that we want some say in setting these parameters up.”
Council voted 5-0 to overturn the mayor’s veto and to approve the amended ordinance.
The changes in the ordinance will give the borough power in regulating drilling.
Companies can only place wells on agricultural zones on lots at least 10 acres, although horizontal wells can pass under any zone.
The ordinance outlines a list of safety regulations that must be met, and dictates that the borough engineer be allowed to inspect wells.
One of the biggest safety regulations in the ordinance prevents conventional flaring of wells. Instead, wells must follow reduced emission completion, which minimizes the release of natural gas and vapors during the completion phase of the pad.
“That’s actually a DEP requirement set to begin in 2015,” Leslie said. “We just moved it up a year.”
Leslie said he recently told the land manager at Rex Energy about the ordinance.
The company is set to begin fracking the three wells next week, he said.