Full circle Gas drilling impact fees find their way to Lititz water improvement project

By on December 18, 2013

By:

STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff sseeber.eph@lnpnews.com

, Staff Writer

Environmental problems in one part of the state are environmental solutions in others.

Such is the case with a $300,000 watershed restoration grant recently secured by Lititz. The grant, which was announced publicly during Tuesday night’s borough council meeting, comes from the Marcellus Legacy Fund, a pool of money created by impact fees charged to natural gas drillers in the northern part of Pennsylvania.

Gas drilling continues to be a controversial subject as those in the debate weigh the benefits of this vast natural resource against the environmental ramifications of its extraction. A recent Duke University study analyzed 141 drinking water wells in proximity to shale gas wells in northeastern PA. Methane was detected in 82 percent of the drinking water samples, with average concentrations six times higher for homes less than a kilometer from gas wells.

Meanwhile, the state has tightened regulations for drilling companies. Last year, Gov. Corbett signed Act 13, which increased well setback distances from drinking water sources and expanded operator liability. This act also authorized a county and statewide impact fee, providing grant money for environmental projects. And this is what brings $300,000 to Lititz for an improvement project along Lititz Run, from New Street Park to Oak Street.

State Rep. Steven Mentzer, who was influential in securing this grant money, attended Tuesday night’s meeting to congratulate the borough.

"This resource we have, this huge natural gas resource in Pennsylvania, does benefit not only the northeast, but all of Pennsylvania," he said. "(It) equates to about two times the resources of Saudi Arabia’s oil. And, if we properly manage this resource, which I believe we have so far, this is going to be a tremendous benefit to all of Pennsylvania, and I think this is an example of that."

While two council members and Lititz Mayor Ron Oettel were absent from the meeting, those in attendance acknowledged the benefits of the impact fees.

"The last four or five years, there has been no money for grants," said councilman Shane Weaver.

Marcellus Shale could bring an end to that dry spell.

"(Act 13) has some of the strictest regulations for drillers in the United States," Mentzer added, "and again, I believe if we handle the resources properly we can do a great deal for the citizens of Pennsylvania and for our environment."

In other borough

council news

Council unanimously passed its 2014 budget, which was available for public review and comment for the past month. There will be no tax increase for Lititz residents. A property assessed at $100,000 will generate a $210 local real estate tax bill.

Tuesday night marked the final meeting for council members Todd Fulginiti and Kevin Zartman. They will be replaced by Christine Sensenich and Cory Van Brookhoven in January. Both Fulginiti and Zartman were thanked for their dedicated service to the community.

Junior council member Sarah Sandkuhler will start working as a page for Rep. Mentzer on Jan. 14.

Due to Michael Weaver’s recent retirement from the borough’s public works department, Andrew Garner has been promoted to assistant superintendent. He has been working for the borough for 23 years. The public works department has a total of seven employees.

Al Olah and Charlene Van Brookhoven are among the new members of the Historical Area Advisory Committee.

More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A22

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