Hoping to Lure Natural Gas Industry Money, Pennsylvania Town Creates 'Fracking Zones'

Officials in the small town of Plainton, Pennsylvania are hoping that a new zoning designation and loosened permitting rules will convince energy companies to come search beneath their town for the new black gold: natural gas.

A new zoning designation now sets aside sections of town for hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping high-pressure water or sand into the ground to ease the extraction of natural gas. Officials are hoping to catch onto what's being called America's natural gas bonanza. This week, the city's zoning maps are being reissued with newly highlighted areas marked "Fracking."

"'Industrial' wasn't clear enough. We wanted to make sure those oil companies knew we were ready for business," says Zoning Administrator Carole-Ann Dennings. "We were going to go with the designation HF for hydraulic fracturing, but everyone calls it fracking so we said what the hell?"

Officials are "pretty sure" there's some natural gas beneath their feet just waiting to be extracted, but don't have the resources to look for it themselves. Nor do they have the money to advertise their potential underground resources to natural gas companies.

"Changing the zoning code was the easiest and cheapest thing we could do," says Mayor Eldon Cutler. As for the potential downsides of opening the city up to the notably hazardous practice of hydraulic fracturing, Cutler isn't dissuaded. "Sure, it might cause repeated earthquakes and poison our drinking water. But who wants a stable, sufficient economy when you can boom?"

Full Story: Hoping to Lure Natural Gas Industry Money, Pennsylvania Town Creates 'Fracking Zones'


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