Community and the Shale: How PMPEI Is Stepping In To Help in the Planning
Posted: January 27, 2011
For elected officials, it has become even doubly important to stay on top of developments and aware of community needs. To help with this, the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI) courses are adjusting their content to address current issues.
PMPEI is offers a variety of courses for local elected officials to equip the local leadership with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the complications that come in any community. They cover topics like community development, subdivision and Courses are offered whenever a community wishes to host it and are taught by two certified instructors.
Recently, the usual practicums have been adjusted to begin helping communities consider the impacts that the Shale can have and how they can respond in effective ways. Peter Wulfhorst, PMPEI board member, said that these changes were part of new developments to address Shale questions throughout the state of Pennsylvania, including possibilities for a Land use conference next year. The issues surrounding respond to the Shale are complex and varied, running from the availability of emergency vehicles, water use, to the complex zoning ordinance variations between the local and state levels.
And what are the goals in addressing these questions in a course for elected officials? "We want to help communities to think ahead, to change they way they are thinking about these issues," Stan Lembeck, chair of the PMPEI board, said.
The first change is to see the Shale industry as long-term fixture. "It isn't going away any time soon" Lembeck noted. "Communities need to plan for long term. Not reactive." The estimates guess that the industry will be present from anywhere between 10-50 years, with a high probability that other gas technologies will develop in that time.
It will also be important to consider cumulative effects of the industry, not just one well in one community. There is a continual activity surrounding the industry even when one well will come in and out of use.
And finally, leaders need to consider these developments as being of regional significance and impact--not just the local! The land use is far beyond the choices of any one individual community, which will require extensive collaboration between communities and the state government to be effective. "If you can't understand how it all interacts with you and your municipalities then you've missed the point," Stan Lembeck concluded.
But these courses are not just beneficial for those in the Marcellus Shale regions. "The process in thinking about the Shale is the same that can be applied for other types of activity and landscape changes," Peter Wulfhorst emphasized. Being effective community leaders requires a way to think through problems and address them. asking the important questions: What are the issues and how can we address them?