Residents seek 'bill of rights' to ban compressors

In heated discussion, attorney says suggested ordinance is untried and illegal


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  • Pictured (from left): Ray Willis and Kevin Stroyan of the Milford Planning Commission, Alex Lotorto and Tracy Vitchers attend a meeting of the Milford Township supervisors. (Photo by Charles Reynolds)



Supervisor Don Quick said the township cannot enact ordinances to stop a particular business or industry. The suggested ordinance would be like an ordinance that limited a business, like Helms garage, and then banned it.

By Charles Reynolds
— Some Milford residents are asking supervisors to pass a "residents' bill of rights" that would outlaw compressor stations in the township.

Tracy Vitchers of Moon Valley Road told supervisors Monday that the Columbia Gas compressor station upgrade project is “detrimental to the local environment, as well as air quality and potentially water and soil quality.” She said an ordinance to ban them was written up by the Community Environmental Network and Energy Justice, and urged supervisors to adopt it.

Activist Alex Lotorto, who works for Energy Justice, said the ordinance has never been challenged. Environmental groups want to bring an attorney to a supervisors' meeting to discuss the ordinance and answer questions, he said.

Solicitor Doug Jacobs disputed Lotorto's claim that the ordinance has never been challenged. If the township passed it, he said, it would be the first.

Jacobs said the ordinance as written would attempt to outlaw an existing entity — the current compressor station — which cannot be done.

Lotorto said that the ordinance could be changed as needed. But Jacobs said the group was attempting to “put one over” on the supervisors by bringing in a draft copy containing language that is not legal.

Supervisor Don Quick said the township cannot enact ordinances to stop a particular business or industry. The suggested ordinance would be like an ordinance that limited a business, like Helms garage, and then banned it.

The township can enact ordinances that make it harder for businesses to operate without restrictions, Quick said, but not one that cuts them out completely.

Lotorto said that what he meant was that similar ordinances, such as the one against hydrofracking in a municipality near Pittsburgh and the one against pipelines in State College, Pa., had not been challenged.

Disagreement about what is lowering property values

A heated exchange ensued between Jacobs and Greg Lotorto about the influence on property values of the Tennessee Gas pipeline and the compressor station. Greg said realtors told him that prospective out-of-town homebuyers who know nothing about the area tell agents they don't want to buy near a pipeline.

Jacobs shot back: If they know nothing about the area, how do they know about a pipeline? He then answered his own question: protestors and the media.

As an attorney for the sheriff's department, he said, he believes the real cause for reduced property values is the high number of foreclosures — which have nothing to do with the pipeline or compressor station.

Supervisor Don Quick calmed the proceedings. Kevin Stroyan of the planning commission invited the environmentalists' attorney to planning commission for a look at the ordinance before it goes before supervisors.

Officials said the existing compressor station does not meet current standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the PA Department of Environmental Protection. This would be corrected with a new compressor. Columbia Gas is looking into using electric motors, which would reduce vibrations and emissions.

Supervisor Gary Clark said those who opposed the station should join him and the township in making sure the best, safest possible station was built.

The next meeting of the Milford Township supervisors will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 19, in the township administration building.

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