Rep. Ellis, Butler County Commissioners, and Connoquenessing Supervisors: Don’t steal $1.1 million from 30 families with contaminated water
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We the undersigned demand that the $1.1 million in Act 13 impact fees received by Butler County and Connoquenessing Township be used to provide water to the impacted families of the Woodlands whose water has been contaminated since hydraulic fracturing started in their rural community.
As of Jan. 25, 2013, thirty (30) families in the Woodlands area of Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, PA now rely on local churches and other sources of water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. Community members first reported contaminated water in 2010, shortly after Rex Energy started using the controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in their rural community. Water and air tests have revealed high levels of VOC’s and other toxins associated with fracking.
In Oct 2012 Butler County and Connoquenessing Township received over $1.1 million in Act 13 impact fees (Garrett, 2013). Although yet to earmark the funds, the county commissioners and township supervisors have indicated that they have no intentions of spending any of the $897,000 and $205,486 respectively to help their constituents receive clean safe water. Instead County Commissioner and former Vice President of Interstate Pipe and Supply, Bill McCarrier was quoted in the Butler Eagle that he plans on spending the money to fill gaps in the County's budget. “We've had so many cutbacks from the state, for example, human services and the 911 center, Medicare and Medicaid payments to Sunnyview,” McCarrier said (Biller, 2013). The Township Supervisors have told the residents that they will not help and that the residents should file a class-action suit against Rex Energy. This line of thinking runs counter to the public promises made during the debate of Act 13 and may, in fact, be illegal under §2314 of Act 13.
During the passage of Act 13, Connoquenessing’s State Representative and prime sponsor of Act 13, Brian Ellis said the following about the Impact Fee. "Whatever project – whether township, borough or county-level, can only use the money for restoration or repairs," he said. "They can’t use it for anything else. We're not giving them an additional revenue that they could spend willy-nilly," he continued (Olson, 2011). Furthermore, Act 13 §2314(g) states “A county or municipality receiving funds under subsection (d) shall use the funds received only for the following purposes associated with natural gas production from unconventional gas wells within the county or municipality” (emphases added)”. The following subsections include:
(2) Water, storm water and sewer systems, including construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair.
(5) Preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface waters and water supplies.
As you can clearly see, both the intention and the letter of Act 13 regarding the Impact Fee mandate that any money received under §2314 be spent on those impacted by “natural gas production from unconventional gas wells.” And unless there are other communities or individuals that fit that description, you are obligated see that the full $1.1 million be spent on those impacted in the Woodlands community.
Marcellus Outreach Butler is a group of Butler County, Pennsylvania individuals and coalitions concerned about the health and safety of our communities due to horizontal, slickwater, hydrofracture drilling in Marcellus Shale for the extraction of natural gas.
Biller, Ed. “Neighbors Continue Battle about Water.” Butler Eagle 19 Jan. 2013.
Garrett, Kelly B. “Marcellus Shale Windfall Unspent.” Butler Eagle 2 Jan. 2013.
Olson, Laura. “Ellis: impact fee for locals only.” Post-Gazette 16 June 2011.
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