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Drilling firm challenges township waste ordinance

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 11, 2014 at 1:05 pm •  Published: August 11, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A gas and oil drilling company has sued a western Pennsylvania township, claiming that an ordinance passed to ban the disposal of drilling byproducts like fracking fluids and briny water is illegal and trumped by state and federal law.

Officials in Grant Township, Indiana County, have yet to see the lawsuit filed late Friday by the Pennsylvania General Energy Company, of Warren. But township Supervisor Fred Carlson said Monday that the township's own attorney has advised the ordinance may be illegal. Supervisors of the township, some 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, are meeting Tuesday to discuss the subject.

"The meeting is in regards to withdrawing the ordinance because our attorney is saying it's not constitutional," Carlson told The Associated Press. "But another group of attorneys wants to help us fight it in court."

The ordinance and resulting lawsuit were spawned by PGE's plans to convert an old underground natural gas well to an injection well, where the company could dispose of fluids from drilling as deep as 7,000 feet below ground.

The company applied for a permit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May 2013 and received approval in March. The permit was appealed by some township residents to the U.S. Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, which has yet to rule. The company also applied in April to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for permission to convert the gas well, first drilled in 1997, to an injection well.

Carlson said the township itself didn't have the legal authority to challenge the permit so the supervisors of the 694-resident municipality passed a "Community Bill of Rights Ordinance" in June.

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