Gas leases hang up N. Strabane board
The North Strabane Township municipal building
The North Strabane Township Planning Commission couldn’t vote Monday on an application by Range Resources for a gas well pad after three of the four commission members attending abstained because they have leases with the natural gas drilling company.
“This is something that’s never happened before at a meeting of the planning commission,” Paulette Moyar, township planning coordinator, told the board of supervisors Tuesday. “Three (members) had leases or some type of economic relationship with Range Resources, and they felt that they would not be able to review or vote on the conditional use application.”
The planning commission was expected to vote on an application for a vertical well pad to be constructed by Range on property owned by Christy Gas Co. on Christy Road. It would be the first gas well site in North Strabane, said township Manager Frank Siffrinn.
Township solicitor James Jeffries is preparing an opinion on whether it would be appropriate for the commission members to vote on the application. He said the item will go back to the planning commission for a vote unless he recommends that it go directly to the board of supervisors.
Robert Balogh, chairman of the planning commission, said he was the one member at the meeting who does not have a lease with Range. Commission members Harold Close, Katharine Stayduhar and Marcus Staley have leases, and Bill Franczyk was absent.
Balogh said the commission’s next step is dependent on Jeffries’ opinion, but he believes the item will likely come back to the commission for a vote in some capacity.
“As far as I know, it has been sent back to the planning commission by the board of supervisors,” Balogh said. “I am under the impression that we will see it again at next month’s meeting” on Sept. 16.
Balogh said the planning commission is not held to the same voting standards as the board of supervisors because it makes recommendations, so the commission has more leeway regarding what is considered a valid vote.
Supervisors will schedule a public hearing regarding the possible well during the next voting meeting on Aug. 27. Siffrinn said Tuesday he does not believe that the lack of a planning commission vote or Jeffries’ pending opinion would prevent the public hearing from being scheduled.
Siffrinn said “the majority of the items (for the conditional use application) were in compliance with the ordinance,” and engineer Joe Sites added that a couple items might need to be revised to comply with the state’s Act 13 that governs oil and gas well drilling.
In a separate item, the board of supervisors will be voting on a potential oil and gas lease agreement with either Rice Energy or Range Resources for township property at next week’s meeting.