How can zoning protect you?
In order to develop fracking infrastructure, the industry is required to adhere to local rules as well as state and federal. Local zoning rules may ultimately prevent infrastructure development in places that have adopted zoning plans. So, for instance, if your locality has zoning ordinances, those additional rules regarding development can act as another line of defense for keeping your community safe and ensuring that industry uses best practices.
One advantage to having an ordinance, say a height ordinance, would be that it might prevent fracking companies from building infrastructure that exceeds a certain height. Fracked well pads often require "flare-stacks" which need to be quite high. The fracking company would have to be granted some type of special permission in order to build a flare stack which exceeds the ordinance. A fracking company wanting to construct a 100 ft flare stack in an area covered by a height ordinance that limits buildings to 50 ft would have to submit a special request to the local government and prove that it merits an exception. If the local government decides that it does not merit an exception according to their zoning plan, they can deny the fracking company's request.
Suddenly, an area that seemed very appealing to the fracking company for development may not look so good anymore. This is one way that landowners and citizens can protect their quiet enjoyment of their homes and property. On the other hand, if your locality has zoning that makes it easier for fracking to occur, it will not be acting as an additional layer of protection and you may want to look into changing your zoning.
- Read more about the limits of zoning in Delaware Riverkeeper Network's resource on environmental rights, Section 2 - What Municipalities Can Do
- Pennsylvania's rules that govern zoning are largely found in the Municipal Planning Code.
If you know that your community has zoning: Find out if your zoning helps protect you.