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Commonwealth Court to PUC: 'Cease and Desist'—Release the Impact Fee Money

The court order was filed Friday over the withholding of four communities' local impact fee money owed them through Act 13—the state's new Marcellus Shale law.

The state Commonwealth Court today ordered that the state Public Utility Commission had no authority to review local gas drilling ordinances and subsequently withhold Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee payments in four townships challenging the state’s drilling law, announced state Rep. Jesse White.

When a $204 million statewide disbursement of Marcellus shale drilling impact fees was  announced Oct. 15, documents released by the PUC that day noted that Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and South Fayette townships were designated as communities whose money was being “withheld pending resolution of the requests for review of existing ordinances."

White said the PUC's move, calling it a "violation of state law and political extortion," and the affected townships petitioned Commonwealth Court to rule on the matter.

The court agreed with them and today ordered the PUC to "cease and desist from acting upon requests pursuant to 58 Pa. C.S. 3305 to review municipal ordinances for compliance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, and Chapters 32 and 33 of Act 13” because of the Court’s July 26 order that struck down the local zoning provisions in the law.

“This is another win in what’s becoming a long string of victories for the side of local communities as related to Act 13,” White said. “Instead of fighting and attacking local governments at every turn, supposed industry leaders like Range Resources and the Corbett administration should attempt to work with us. Or, at the very least, they should realize that our local towns won’t back down and won’t tolerate the intimidation designed to divide and conquer our communities.”

The impact fees, as designed, are to be used for road and infrastructure improvements, police and fire protection and other measures local governments see fit to mitigate the impact of drilling in their communities. Cecil Township is scheduled to receive $246,098; Mt. Pleasant to receive $500,000; Robinson to receive $225,737.93; South Fayette to receive $2,731.39.

According to White, those four townships are "locked in a legal battle against the state over blanket zoning provisions in Act 13 that the townships, and Commonwealth Court, believe override the constitutional right to use local zoning ordinances to regulate natural gas drilling."

"The PUC's move was nothing more a nod to Governor (Tom) Corbett and the gas industry's attempt to divide and conquer. Fortunately, and thanks to the rule of law, it didn't work,” White said. "If the gas industry really wants to work together and formulate a reasonable way to develop Marcellus Shale, the people driving the policy and public relations need to realize that their default solution of attacking anyone who doesn't agree with them is failing miserably. We're tired of the games, the tactics, the double-talk, the lies and the attacks. It has to end if we want this industry to succeed long-term in Pennsylvania."

The state Supreme Court last Wednesday heard oral arguments of the Act 13 challenge. A final ruling is expected in the coming months.

Reached on the Commonwealth Court ruling Friday afternoon Cecil Solicitor John Smith, who spearheaded the Act 13 challenge and represents the four communities whose ordinances were under review and whose impact money was withheld issued the following statement:

"The municipalities we represent correctly interpreted the law as to the PUC's role in ordinance reviews and despite the clear statutory provisions, the PUC sought to go forward anyway to deny close to $1 million of impact monies to these select ACT 13 plaintiffs. As the Commonwealth Court agreed completely with our position, we fully expect and demand that the PUC immediately release the impact fees to these four communities."

Smith and Jon Kamin argued before the Commonwealth Court on Wednesday that the PUC didn't have the authority to review the oridinaces or withhold the impact money.

He added: "The judge found it very interesting that the only challenged communities were the Act 13 plaintiffs. The Commonwealth Court ordered the PUC to 'cease and disist' this activity.

Jennifer Kocher, press secretary for the PUC, said Friday the order is under review.

Editor's Note: To read the entire order, click on the attached PDF.

Jason Parks October 27, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Well well if it isn't Jesse Mcpherson and the funky bunch. Look everyone, little jesse is doing his endzone dance. Pure class, little guy. If patch didn't exist nobody would know you do. You should send amanda a gift card for keeping your career on life support. I see you're still using the word extortion. Hope everone in the county sees an elected official tossing around a criminal charge with no evidence. Id have been here sooner but because of your buddy obama I've had to double up shifts. So sometimes I'm mostly days and sometimes nights but don't worry I'm still watching, and talking to a lot of people. One more thing. Does anyone here know the real reason jesse hates range? I do. Oh sorry this site isnt about the truth when it comes to jesse. Forget I said anythng.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 04:13 AM
H158, H160, H2251,H 721, S 1013, S 1218, S 709, S 848 to name a few.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Cindy McPherson isn't what Rep White and John Smith been doing fighting for money from the big bad Range. Don't like Range they are ruining our enviroment but give me that money.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Q: What's the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? A: A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer
Amanda Gillooly October 27, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Wow, wow, wow. Flag on the play. And for the record, I would be happy to speak with Range reps at any point. My number again is 724-510-5659. Gift card? I take offense to that, sir.
Cindy McPherson October 27, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Jason Parks = Jim Cannon from Range. Pretty much all you need to know.
Me October 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Amanda where is the copy of Cecil Twp new policy.Many request have many made. You have have stated you would contact Cecil Twp for a copy. Did you ask for a copy? What is the problem?
Lynne October 27, 2012 at 01:49 PM
yes...why hasn't a copy of the new behavior policy for cecil twps kindergarten meetings been posted for all us residents to read, so we know the proper way to act when we attend???
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Maybe the right person hasn't given Amanda permission to post it. Have a meeting coming up don't want to do the wrong things.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Cindy McPherson do you need more bills they are easy to find
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Cindy what differents does it make this is America FREE SPEECH regardless of who we are, what we do,or what we stand for.The Patch would be a very dull site if only one side could voice there opinion. Some people do have opinions and don't just copy and paste the same thing over and over.
Concerned Citizen October 27, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Seriously stop attacking Amanda! She is giving you all free reign to post your opinion on a daily basis. Regardless of whether you are posting facts or not! It isn't her fault that proud American, Jason Parks, Me and Lynne are proven wrong. She also can't force Range Resources or anyone else to comment. This is exactly the type of behavior the policy at the Cecil Supervisors meetings is trying to curtail. Maybe if we all acted like adults and posted facts instead of slinging mud the policy wouldn't be needed.
DBR October 27, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Up until the Act 13 challenge, the legal battles have actually been initiated by the gas industry, which has forced the townships to respond. Range Resources, MarkWest, Laurel Mountain Midstream/Atlas/Williams have all sued Mt Pleasant, Robinson, Cecil or S. Fayette twps. multiple times over the past 2 years. You can easily verify this online in Washington County Court records. One fact that is often overlooked: None of these townships has EVER denied a drilling permit, yet the gas companies have continued to sue these small communities if they try to protect residents in any small way whatsoever. The industry has been suing our neighboring townships for years. Most people just aren't aware of the problems until the industry is in your backyard. For full disclosure, I absolutely support drilling. However I don't want a permanent and potentially dangerous frack pond 500 feet from my home or a permanent, noisy, odorous potentially dangerous compressor station 700 feet from my home. I think some thoughtful care should go into placing these facilities. That's why we have zoning laws. The local zoning preemption of Act 13 takes everything away, and your municipality could do nothing to prevent these facilities from being built next to you regardless of circumstances. Watching the Act 13 Supreme Court hearing on PCN TV and listening to both sides of the arguments convinced me that the townships have done the right thing here. Let's see what the Supreme Court rules.
Amanda Gillooly October 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
The new policy has nothing to do with this story, first off. Secondly, I just simply have not gotten a chance to get to it. It slipped my mind, with my many apologies. But I assure you, when I ask for it, I will get it.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Concerned Citizen I'm not attacking Amanda I just stated if she was given permission I knew she would post it. I have told her several times I like the Patch I think it is very informative and gives citizens a chance to get things off their chest. I feel she does an excellent job and she was right this did get off the subject.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 08:17 PM
DBR you say the drilling companies never tried to work with the township hear are a few facts: 2/9/11 Range was at supervisor meeting trying to work out issues about permitted use and conditional use no decision on ordinance change. 2/17/11 meeting with residents 2/18/11 The Patch posted Range gave a 40 minute presentation and residents where given a chance to ask questions meeting was 2 hours 4/22/11 at meeting Range has some issues with the conditional use the language in the proposed ordinance words like excessive and harmonious he said it was difficult for site to meet this criteria. Stated there is not guaranteed that a request would be approved even if the conditions would be met. Rep White at that meeting said quote " Don't let it drag out forever. The town can't handle it." Board push it to 5/23/12. Debbis said the board would likely be poised to vote one way or another in June 5/24/11 One of the issues discussed was having a trailer on site and if supervisors or emplyees could sleep on site. Supervisor Schrader had a concerns with bunk housing. One resident was concerned about buffer 1500 feet for residential development asked whether a group of homes on a street would get as much protection as a formal housing plan. Supervisor Casciola stated quote " You can't save everybody. If there is a flood you grab as many people as you can. You can't grab everyone. Also discussed issue with Fire Chief Dennis Berty. Board said would be poised to vote in July
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 09:04 PM
7/5/11 Range did state could end up in court over the ordinance 7/6/11 The board reviewed 3 separate maps one showed prevented drilling from taking place with in 200 feet of any structure covered under the Oil and Gas Act. the other two 1000 feet from any residental development and 1500 feet from schools. Range said to soon to say it would go to court but it was considered.Range was ask to provide a map showing the 38 wells that would be eliminated if the board went thru with their plan. next meeting scheduled for Aug. 8 9/6/2011 Cecil township finally voted to approve the condtional use ordinance 9/27/11Cecil Township supervisers met for the 7th time about ordinance for compressor station some common ground was found. One part they disagreed about was the use of internal-combustion engines township 5 electric-driven motors and one combustion as back up. Stated to get the utility company to run high-power lines to site would take years. Cecil Townships lawyer said document would needed to be tweeked say supervisors should wait until November meeting to set date for the next public meeting. and Possible action could come in Dec. This process started in February 2011 range didn't mention until july 2011 this could end up in court. They may not have stopped giving drilling permits but they did everything they could to hold thing up. I want to thank the staff of The Patch Amanda Gillooly and Sara-Summer Oliphant for all of this info came from the articles they posted
Amanda Gillooly October 27, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Thank you, Proud. We do the best we possibly can!
DBR October 27, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Proud American - Nowhere in any of my comments did I write as you stated: "the drilling companies never tried to work with the township." What I did say is that "Up until the Act 13 challenge, the legal battles have actually been initiated by the gas industry, which has forced the townships to respond." The lawsuits initiated by the industry go far beyond Range Resources and Cecil Twp. I agree that Patch is a fantastic resource, but to be more informed you will also have to look beyond Patch since many of these lawsuits are outside Canon-McMillan Patch's coverage area. Lawsuits have been initiated by Range Resources, MarkWest, or Laurel Mountain Midstream/Atlas/Williams against Mt Pleasant, Robinson, Cecil and S. Fayette twps. These companies have all thrown out the first threats of lawsuit and carried their threats out - causing our communities to have to spend money to respond or else sit idly by and just accept everything that the gas industry says. As I said, I support drilling. I do not support it at all costs. The industry deserves to develop, but residents deserve the right to protect their property values, neighborhoods, and health as well. At times these rights are going to be at odds with each other. That's why this has gone to the Supreme Court for a ruling.
Me October 27, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Concerned Citizen I do not attack people and there has been no mud slinging at the twp meetings. Amanda is the one who agreed to get the new policy and post it . If she did not feel comfortable doing that she should have told me that when I ask for it. It was 4 supervisor who came up with the policy. Why was the 5th supervisor not told about the new policy. Maybe because they want to control the twp.Are they afraid of the 5th supervisor?If it such a great policy the twp should have posted in a local news paper for all to see. Why does Cecil Twp wants to keep it a secret and not post it ? You begin to wander what are they hiding.
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I didn't say I trust the gas and oil companies 100% put the township doesn't have clean hands in this situations either. I have sat thru these meeting and I have seen the gas and oil companies give all the citizens respect and thoughtful answers to their concerns. No question was considered petty all where answered whether for or against drilling. We don't always get that from our elected officals.
Amanda Gillooly October 27, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Me - I never feel uncomfortable asking for public information. Again: Forgive me. I am human. I simply forgot to get that document for you. I will offer this one last apology. But really, it's as simple as that....
cecil resident October 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM
DBR they don't walk into a meeting saying we are going to sue sometimes after months of meetings like I posted it does come down to a law suit. Compromise has to come from both sides ,gas and oil drilling is not going away. The lawsuits need to stop on both side and compromises need to be reach not only on the Range and township ends but also the citizens. Oil and gas and coal built this country and we need it to save it and become energy independent.
Amanda Gillooly October 28, 2012 at 11:31 AM
DBR - I agree. Many stories on this issue are outside this area, as well. If you have any links from other sources you'd ever like to share in the comments section, please feel free to do so! Thanks again for reading!
Jonathan Damico October 28, 2012 at 09:13 PM
To the guy named "proud American" (so proud, he can't post his name to his run of the mill political party line chatter) - energy independence- what exactly is that? http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/10/26/163637629/energy-independence-wouldnt-make-gasoline-any-cheaper
cecil resident October 28, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Sorry you don't like my name proud American because that is exactly what I am. How do I know Jonathan Damico is your real name just because you said so? Maybe you like gas and oil that comes from countries that hate us and don't mind paying $4 a gallon for it while they chant kill Americans. What proof does anyone have it won't be cheaper for every article that says it will be you can find one that says it don't. I guess we won't know until we start using our own resources and go back to building more refineries. Do you want to be energy independent or dependent on countries that are killing our young men and women.
Amanda Gillooly October 29, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Can we all keep it on topic and please be respectful of each other. We don't have to agree, but don't you all think we should at least be civil? (At least here's hoping)
DBR October 29, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Thanks, Amanda. Glad to know that is ok with you. You do a tremendous job covering the news in our area! It's great getting info in such a timely way here.
cecil resident October 29, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Sorry Amanda if I got off topic just hate to see our young men and women dying trying to help countries that hate us and to make sure we can get foreign oil when we have all the resources right under our feet. And the name thing is just petty free speech is free speech no matter what name you choose to use.
Me November 17, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Why did you close the comments on Jeese White. Why are you protecting. him. He keeps posting. he know there will be comments. You let him post and you close the comments. I f you don't like a comment you delete . Why is that .

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