Scott Detrow/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
Lt. Governor Jim Cawley.
Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley sat down with StateImpact Pennsylvania recently to talk about how the Corbett administration is handling allegations of fraud against the state’s biggest natural gas driller– Chesapeake Energy.
Corbett recently reached out to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and asked her to investigate complaints the company is cheating Pennsylvania landowners out of royalty money.
For an overview of the issue, listen to our audio report:
It seemed like a game-changer late last year when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court restored the power of local communities to limit natural gas development within their borders. After all, three out of every five municipalities on the Marcellus Shale have zoning laws to that would apply. However, in the state’s rural Northern Tier, where drilling has flourished, some towns aren’t eager to wield this new clout.
In most of Pennsylvania, industrial activities are controlled by local governments using zoning. They have community plans that tell businesses how loud they can get or how high they can build, or how close they can be to your house. But in the northeast, many communities don’t have these kinds of rules and most people like it that way.
In Susquehanna County, Planning Director Bob Templeton says the idea of zoning has never gone over well.
“People are not rich in Susquehanna County, but what they do own is their land and they’re very proud of that,” he says. “It’s been passed down for generations, so don’t mess with my land.”
After the natural gas industry moved in, the county passed an ordinance to deal with noisy compressor stations that move the gas through pipelines. Otherwise, Templeton says many residents in Susquehanna – where only six of the county’s 40 municipalities have adopted zoning codes – just accepted the changes to their rural lifestyle.
“If I’m out in the townships and I’ve leased my land and now I’m looking forward to royalties, I don’t want somebody controlling it,” he says. ”How can you say this area is allowed to be drilled upon and this area is not?”