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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fracking foes pack Ligonier Township hearing

"With more than 100 people filling the Ligonier Valley High School auditorium, the Ligonier Township supervisors and planning commission listened to more than three hours of comments from the public Tuesday night on a proposed zoning ordinance and map. Thirty-one people signed up to speak. Comments were limited to about five minutes per person. Like other recent township meetings, Marcellus shale drilling provisions in the ordinance were the principal point of concern for residents. Several of them presented slide shows and submitted research regarding the industry's adverse potential effects on health and environment.

“Gentlemen, this industrial process has no business destroying the health of this valley,” said resident Elizabeth Donohoe.“You are duty-bound to read what we are presenting to you,” she said. “You are also, by law, bound to protect this valley's air, water and the quality of life here. Anything less is self-serving dereliction of duty.”

Citizens to Preserve Ligonier Valley, a grassroots organization of people against fracking, provided informational handouts at a table in the foyer of the auditorium, with signs posted stating “Don't Frack Ligonier,” in bold, capital letters.

Some people from outside of the township came to speak on the industry, including Andy Pollack, a former resident of Washington County who discussed his firsthand experiences with negative effects of drilling and Raina Ripple, the director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which researches the effects of the industry's impact on health.

In the interest of making sure residents would be able to speak, solicitor Michael Korns said non-township residents would speak last.The change in order upset some residents, including Jan Milburn, who said some speakers had traveled several hours to attend. “Let them speak,” said Jack Milburn. “You're going to learn something.”

Residents spoke on numerous aspects of drilling, such as potential air pollution, water contamination, decreases in property value for homes near gas wells, damage to roadways from truck traffic and noise."