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Drilling Law Keeps Courts Busy

Opponents of Pennsylvania's Act 13 continue legal challenges, citing erosion of local jurisdiction.

The flurry of legal activity surrounding Pennsylvania’s new drilling law continues.

On Wednesday, attorneys representing seven municipalities and other entities opposing state Act 13 filed further motions with Commonwealth Court in attempts to strike down portions of the legislation.

At issue is the diminished ability of local government to regulate oil and gas activities. Opponents contend that the law “deprives municipal officials of carrying out their legally binding duty to protect air, water and natural environmental values,” according to .

Cecil Township attorney John Smith, who represents the suit’s petitioners, said Wednesday’s actions seek to prevent representatives of the natural gas industry from giving oral arguments in court proceedings, and for the court to uphold its decision not to allow state legislators to intervene in the case.

The court has designated certain industry representatives, including the and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, as amici curiae, parties that are not involved in a particular litigation but are allowed to advise the court on matters of law directly affecting the litigation.

On Wednesday, a court order granted industry representatives the opportunity to present a collective five minutes of oral argument when the case is heard. At the request of the state attorney general, the case has been placed on the court’s en banc argument list for June, meaning all Commonwealth Court justices are to be present, instead of the usual panel of three.

The petitioners, who have been granted five minutes to respond to industry arguments, filed a request to deny the court order.

On April 20, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Keith B. Quigley denied an application by state lawmakers to intervene. They applied for reconsideration May 4, claiming, “The Court prevents the legislative leadership from answering petitioners' imputation of bad motives upon the legislature.”

and six other municipalities—including Peters, Mt. Pleasant and Robinson townships in Washington County and South Fayette Township in Allegheny County—filed suit March 29, challenging an Act 13 section providing for state law to pre-empt local regulation of drilling. On April 3, the petitioners requested a preliminary injunction to delay implementation of the act’s relevant section for 120 days.

. The state and its agencies then moved to modify the injunction, but Quigley denied the application. The injunction and denial since have been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

On Monday, the petitioners filed a motion with Commonwealth Court for summary judgment with regard to their suit, claiming Act 13 is unconstitutional on the federal and state levels. The motion lists 66 points, including one that contends the act “establishes a one-size-fits-all zoning scheme for oil and gas development that applies to every zoning district in every political subdivision in Pennsylvania.”

A summary judgment, if granted, would dispose of the case without a trial.

Alexander M. Cianfracco May 11, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Be, the lawyer representing the municipalities is doing the case PRO BONO, or FOR FREE. That means NO BILLABLE HOURS. Your ignorance is disgusting.
Be May 13, 2012 at 09:08 PM
so there are no lawyers or judges making money off this lawsuit. right sure, keep believing sir. all those state attorneys etc. youre telling me this guy is filing a lawsuit of this magnitude, taking on the state of pa, doing all the discovery, filing all the documents etc 100% for free. This local yokal kid attorney with the street corner office in canonsburg is financing the biggest court case in recent pa history out of his own pocket all out of the goodness of his heart.He's financing this battle out of his own pocket and is gaining nothing now or in the future. Lawyers dont do anything for free son. youre so dumb. youre waking through the world with blinkers on. like all liberals, you have no idea of reality. you live in fantasyland. free lawyers LOL LOL LMAO.
Be May 13, 2012 at 09:21 PM
that doesnt even include the attorneys on the state payroll that have to defend it as well. i guess they work for free too. and judges dont get paid either. everyone just does things out of the goodness of their hearts. where is your brain? free lawyers god almighty ive heard it all now. youre one of those 100 iq people.
Be May 13, 2012 at 09:42 PM
i have a question alexander. which government teet are you suckling from?
Zandy Dudiak May 13, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Let's try to refrain from insulting people personally and stick to arguing sides and issues. Thanks.

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