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Court Strikes Down Local Zoning Provisions of Act 13

The state Commonwealth Court issued its opinion Thursday morning—calling those provisions unconstitutional.

This story was updated at 12:52 p.m. to include a recently released statement on the ruling by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

The state Commonwealth Court on Thursday struck down portions of Pennsylvania’s newly enacted legislation governing Marcellus Shale operations—also known as Act 13—as unconstitutional.

The 54-page opinion filed by President Judge Dan Pellegrini, stated:

“Petitioners allege that they have close to 150 unconventional Marcellus Shale wells drilled within their borders, and Act 13 prevents them from fulfilling their constitutional and statutory obligations to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens, as well as public natural resources from the industrial activity of oil and gas drilling. Petitioners allege that Act 13 requires them to modify many of their zoning laws.”

The petitioners, which included a cluster of local communities including Cecil and Peters, an environmental group and a medical doctor, has asked the court to throw out portions of the zoning regulations under Act—and it did.

“We grant petitioners’ Motion for Summary Relief, declare 58 Pa C.S. §3304 unconstitutional and null and void, and permanently enjoin the Commonwealth from enforcing it,” the order read.

Reached Thursday morning, solicitor John Smith—who handled the challenge—said: “I think it’s a great day for local government and a great day for Pennsylvania.”

The attorney added, “Our system of checks and balances worked. The Legislature overstepped, and the court did its job declaring portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional.”

Cecil Township supervisor Andy Schrader, who was a proponent of the challenge, said, “I think the whole purpose of this challenge was to protect our residents and with this ruling, it will give us some legal standing under our zoning laws to do that. That’s what this was all about for me.”

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, who vehemently opposed portions of Act 13, said, “This is obviously a huge victory for those of us who want to see Marcellus Shale developed responsibly. Hopefully now we can stop the bullying and the buying of influence and truly work together to develop a responsible approach that will allow development of Marcellus Shale while creating a culture of true accountability and responsibility. Today’s decision reaffirms that our constitutional protections are not for sale.”

In a statement, the Marcellus Shale Coalition also weighed in on the ruling.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Z. Klaber said:

“The premise for the General Assembly's action earlier this year was to provide certainty and predictability that encourages investment and job creation across the Commonwealth. Lack of uniformity has long been an Achilles’ heel for Pennsylvania and must be resolved if the Commonwealth is to remain a leader in responsible American natural gas development and reap the associated economic, environmental and national security benefits.”

To read the entire opinion, click on the attached PDF.

Roger August 11, 2012 at 12:21 AM
New report with statistics: Last year, 116 rigs operating in the region. This year (same week), 72 rigs. Thinking the NG companies will "hang around" may be just wishful thinking. http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/energy/2012/08/rigs-drop-by-3-in-pa-rise-in-west.html
Larry Borowiec September 20, 2012 at 10:56 AM
This proud American was paid off by the gas drilling company. Just another paid advertisement that these drilling people will deploy to hide the facts of an unhealthy industry. Do these people really care anything about the future of this planet?
cecil resident September 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Larry I care very much about our planet and because I disagree with you I am a paid advertisement , sad. I care enough about it to want us to become energy idependent and we are then able to monitor how things are done in this country. I just feel it shouldn't be over regulated by over zealous elected officals that are quick to pass new ordinances everytime one citizen has a problem with a neighbor. If they do it with petty arguments everytime one person doesn't like something about drilling they will try to pass another ordinance, then another and so forth. When will relying on foreign oil going to be enough for you when gas is 8-9-10 dollars a barrel.
cecil resident September 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Larry show me unhealthy to me looks like it is getting better even with all the doom and gloom . Observer-Reporter Monday June 23, 2012 by Kevin Begos AP (Experts say some critics of fracking using bad science). Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority did extensive test ( found no problems) in the rivers. The Us Energy Information Administration stated quality of air could improve because large powerplants are switching from coal ( which admits far more pollutions) for cleaner gas.The Susan G. Komen for the Cure a major cancer advocacy group Based in Dallas Texas stated it see no evidence of a spike in cancer and those areas that have a lot more wells then Cecil Township will ever have
Bill Ross September 26, 2012 at 07:28 PM
It is a shame that politicians think they know more than industry and are are somehow better suited to decide what is and is not safe and what is and is not in the best interest of the people they are supposed to serve. There is no doubt a standard policy is best for all.

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