One local lawmaker called —the state’s newly enacted legislation regulating Marcellus Shale drilling—a “major victory” for residents and local government bodies.
, D-Cecil, was an outspoken opponent of the bill, and he said after the ruling that he hopes the decision to give the power of regulating the zoning aspects of Marcellus Shale drilling back to local government bodies instead of the state will promote “responsible” development of shale play.
"Hopefully we can now 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,” White said in a statement. “(Thursday’s) decision reaffirms that our constitutional protections are not for sale.”
White said the ruling proves that despite $1.3 million spent by the energy industry lobbyists “to write and pass the bill on their own,” the court did the “right thing.”
“The challenge to this law was not a partisan issue, and (Thursday’s) outcome has nothing to do with trying to stifle responsible natural gas development,” he said. “But eliminating local ordinances and replacing them with a ridiculously low standard that could not be strengthened by local elected officials is not the proper way to do business in Pennsylvania and falls dramatically short of the definition of a ‘good neighbor.’”
He continued: “In plain English, Act 13 was about a lack of local accountability and transparency that allowed companies to do virtually anything they wanted without real oversight or concern for existing property owners. It was about maximizing profits, overreaching and greed at the expense of our constitutional rights, and it was just wrong.”
But other local officials said they were “disappointed” in the ruling because it leaves many questions on how the industry will respond, as well as many others.
“Are we back to square one? Does this throw out the window? I hope not,” state Sen. Tim Solobay said. “I don’t know how the industry will respond to this.”
And he said that while Act 13 was not perfect in its final form, it was a “blessing to many communities” that didn’t have zoning regulations or the cash to implement them.
And he criticized municipal officials who said they made the challenge because they had the responsibility to protect its residents.
“I’m just as responsible (as a member of the Legislature),” he said. “That’s (expletive deleted) as far as I’m concerned.”
Then the lawmaker added: “Cecil Township is just looking at one brick. We have to look at the whole wall.”
Solobay, who voted yes on Act 13, also noted that he believed the decision would be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Messages left on the cell phones of Range Resources spokesmen Jim Cannon, Mike Mackin and Matt Pitzarella were not returned.
However, the Marcellus Shale Coalition issued the following statement following the court ruling:
“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.”
For state , D-North Strabane, the court’s ruling was an objective view of the challenges to the law.
“The court doesn’t deal in winners and losers—it interprets the law,” he said. “When the court says something is unconstitutional, you can’t do anything but accept that.”
But Cecil Supervisor Andy Schrader on Thursday still said it felt like a win for local communities, and , called it a “good day” for local government and the state of Pennsylvania.
White added that he plans to meet with members of his , to explore the feasibility of drafting a model ordinance that would allow for “uniformity and consistency while fostering a true environment of responsibility and accountability.”
He said he will extend the offer to participate in the meeting to surrounding municipalities, as well.