Thursday, May 21, 2009

Marcellus Shale Part 2

The other issue that has recently developed as a result of the Marcellus Shale play stems from the installation of pipelines or transmission lines from the wells. Some municipalities havve been approached by companies to use the municipality's right of way to install transmission lines. This creates a serious problem as there is no legal authority for a municipality to grant the use of its right of way to a private company.

A municipality may grant the use of its right of way to public utilities. However, most of these companies do not meet the definition of a public utility. This issue was addressed in a case from Crawford County back in 1988. In Strawn v. C.&K. Well Managemnt Inc. the Court was faced with a company which wanted to construct a pipeline from a well to an ultimate point of sale. The Township gave permission to the company to run the pipeline in the Township's road right of way. Some property owners that abutted the road in question filed suit for the removal of the pipeline. The court agreed.
Several appellate cases have also looked at the definition of utility and would exclude these companies from the definition.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marcellus Shale Impacts on Rural Municipalities

I was fortunate enough to speak to one of our Councils of Government meetings last evening. My topic was some of the impacts being felt by rural communities from the exploration/ extraction of gas from the Marcellus Shale in our region. I thoght I'd share some of that in this Blog Post.

One of the biggest impacts will be on the local roads. There is data to suggest that the amount of water needed to frac one well is between 1 and 4 million gallons. This means over 360 water truck trips or the equivalent of 3.49 million car trips. Many local roads in our rural area were not built to withstand that kind of travel.

Municipalities can enact ordidnances to establish weight limits on their roads. The roads are then posted with vehicle weight limits and if a hauler want to move loads in excess of the posted limit, a bond or financial security is provided to the municipality. In order to adopt such an ordinance the municipality must adhere to the regulations of the Department of Transportation in 67 Pa. Code Chapter 189 and Publication 221. An engineering study is required in order to set the weight limits.
A number of municipalities don't want to spend the money for the engineering study and are trying to utilize other means to protect their roads. Extreme caution should be used because the Vehicle Code contains a provision that if a local municipality fails to properly administer or enforce the substantive provisions of wieight limits or the PennDOT regulations, the local municipality may suffer the impostion of penalties. Consultation with a knowledgeable municipal solicitor is essential.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Municipal Law Colloquium

I'm spending today and tomorrow in Hershey PA for continuing legal education dealing with municipal law