Oakmont Borough Council crafted letters of objection to protect our community. We are thankful for all residents of Plum and Oakmont and the Plum Borough Zoning Hearing Board that helped to prevent this expansion. #Oakmont #OakmontBorough #OakmontCouncil #OakmontPA #CitizenActivism #LocalGovernment #BoroughSafety #SustainableDevelopment #EnvironmentalProtection #CleanWaterMatters #Environmental Justice
Article courtesy of Protect PT*
Commonwealth Court Vacates Sedat 4a Permit, Requires Additional Fact finding
On January 29, 2024, the Commonwealth Court vacated the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County’s order affirming the decision of the Plum Zoning Hearing Board and remanded the Sadat 4a injection well approval back to the Plum Borough Zoning Hearing Board. The court is requiring the Zoning Hearing Board to make additional findings of fact or to conduct further hearings to establish such facts prior to granting Penneco’s request to expand its injection well operations in Plum Borough.
The Commonwealth Court held that, while Penneco has a constitutional right to the natural expansion of its non-conforming injection well, that right is not without limitations. It stated that first, Penneco must present evidence that the expansion is a matter of “ necessity… as the dictates of business and modernization require” (emphasis in the original). “‘[T]he expansion or modernization [must be] a matter of necessity for the business rather than merely to take advantage of an increase in business’ for the doctrine to be triggered.”
Second, “the right to natural expansion is not unlimited, the contemplated expansion must not be detrimental to the public health, welfare, and safety” (emphasis in the original). “[A] municipality certainly can condition such expansion on certain prerequisites and standards necessary for the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the community” (emphasis in the original).
Third, the court observed that the General Standards for all Conditional Uses or Special Exceptions require that the applicant, Penneco, comply with all requirements of “this” (the complete Plum Borough) Ordinance. It requires the applicant to show “that the traffic from the proposed use will be accommodated in a safe and efficient manner… and that the proposed use shall not create a significant hazard to the public health, safety, and welfare.” The court noted that the ZHB made” no findings with respect to traffic, and no specific finding with respect to health, safety, and general welfare” (emphasis in the original).
Early in the opinion, the Commonwealth Court noted that the members of the Zoning Hearing Board stated, on the record, that they believed that they were powerless to stop Penneco from expanding their injection well, and would be required by the courts to grant Penneco their permit. The Court stated: “Despite its perception to the contrary, the ZHB was not powerless-consistent with Silver and the Ordinance-to apply the requirements of the natural expansion doctrine and the plain terms of the Ordinance to regulate the location of the proposed expansion of the nonconforming use at issue here. It erred in believing otherwise.”
“We feel vindicated in pressing forward and insisting that they, the Plum Zoning Hearing Board, take into consideration the health and safety of the community in their decision,” said Gillian Graber, Executive Director of Protect PT. “Like many municipalities facing the tremendous pressure from the industry, the Plum Borough Zoning Hearing Board believed it had no other option but to approve this new well, but townships and municipalities across Pennsylvania can take heart that there are remedies in the law for municipalities to stop this unwanted development,” said James Cirilano, Protect PT’s Community Advocate.
The matter is now back before the Zoning Hearing Board to determine whether Penneco is entitled to expand its injection well in Plum Borough.
*NOTE: Protect PT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring residents’ safety, security, and quality of life by engaging in education and advocacy to protect the economic, environmental, and legal rights of the people in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties. https://www.protectpt.org/