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October 23, 2016
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Second hearing on drilling zoning amendment

The current zoning would require that each proposed gas or oil well would have to come before the township ZHB for approval with local input including an advertised public hearing.
Back in August of 2010, zoning officer Ed Lagarenne issued a stop order to the drilling operation at the Woodland Management site on Route 371 because the company had not applied for a special exception permit demanded by the current zoning ordinance. The company ignored the order and took the township to federal court, stating that the state’s oil and gas act supersedes township ordinances. The judge ruled that the township should sign a consent decree with the company to work out their differences.

That sparked the move to change the zoning law. “We’re doing this so that we won’t get challenged,” said township attorney Jeffrey Treat. “I don’t think we will be challenged by the company with this amendment.”

Go Damascus Supervisors

It is good to see true democracy in action and nowhere can you observe it better than at the township level. In the case of Damascus you have three middle class men chosen from among the resident population to represent the wishes of the resident population. They have done a wonderful job of removing a descriminatory zoning regulation and streamlining it so that the business of the resident population may be done without having to go through the rigamaroll circus of public comment. This effort by the Damascus township supervisors will also save "David and Goliath" legal fees. I for one am tired of hearing this conflict of interest nonsense because these men have leased their property. They are local businessmen entitled to do business in addition to being a supervisor. Since when is capitalism such an attrocity and socialism such a novelty? By this logic anyone with any sizeable acreage that hasn't leased (try to find one) is also in a conflict of interest as someone who is anti drilling. In the end the voters of Damascus and not the DCS will determine in which direction Damascus moves on the whole drilling issue.

Jeffrey Treat and the purpose of the zoning amendment

When Jeffrey Treat, the township's attorney, states: "We're doing this so that we won't get challenged...I don't think we will be challenged by the company with this amendment", he shows how he, and the supervisors, are misrepresenting the vast majority of the township.

As Barbara Arrindell pointed out, the existing regulations protect the rural residential zoning designation properly, by forcing individual review per well, that would include citizen input and feedback, while the proposed amendment streamlines the approval process immensely, and places the review, and authority for approval, squarely in the hands of the supervisors who have leased, and in whose interest it is to drill.

Under the proposed amendment, the approvals will come quickly. Mr. Treat will most likely be correct. There will be no company challenges, as long as the township supervisors play along, and approve all requests. On the other hand, as soon as the township supervisors reject, the company will most likely challenge the decision.

We can all hope that there is no commercially viable gas to be extracted, south of the Lackawanna Syncline. That will solve the drilling issue for Damascus Township.

One further note, NWPOA passed around a map that showed a line drawn parallel to the Syncline, passing across the Damascus/Cochecton bridge on a slight diagonal below Rt.371. The lessor's propaganda was aimed at undermining the claim of the DRBC, that about 36% of the Marcellus underlies the DRB, and that up to 18,000 Marcellus horizontal wells may be drilled. I believe NWPOA wanted to portray the drillable DRB area at about 8% or 11%, not 36%, by saying that the commercially viable drilling areas are only north of the line they drew, and that drilling would not occur in the NYC watershed area.

If this NWPOA position were to be true, then the drill baby drill stance of the Damascus township supervisors is further undermined by the fact that about 40% to 45% of Damascus Township seems to exist below that drawn line.

How small a minority do the three leasing supervisors represent?