A recent state court ruling in Pennsylvania was a huge win for local communities’ rights to make zoning decisions about natural gas development within their borders. As we’ve mentioned before, EDF fully supports the traditional rights of local communities to regulate this intensive industrial activity, much as they would any other commercial or industrial activity in their community.
Yesterday, EDF joined an amicus brief with Earthjustice and over a dozen other organizations to support a state court ruling, which recently overturned a state law curtailing local government regulation of natural gas development. The brief urges the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to uphold the lower court’s decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, which deemed a section of this year’s oil and gas omnibus Act 13 unconstitutional as to its preemption of local zoning control over oil and gas development. The state law would have stripped away local zoning laws, limited private property rights, and in the process, hampered towns’, cities’, municipalities’ and county governments’ ability to regulate shale gas development within their own, respective jurisdictions.
Act 13 of 2012 is a major legislative package that reforms Pennsylvania’s oil and gas laws to reflect the new realities of the shale gas boom in the Marcellus formation underlying much of the state. State agencies are conducting substantial rulemaking activities to implement sections of the law on topics including well site development, air quality, pipelines and wastewater management. EDF looks forward to working with state officials to ensure that these rules are fully protective of communities and the environment.
However, parts of Act 13 went in the wrong direction. In particular, section 3304 obligated all local zoning ordinances to conform to a list of requirements related to the siting and permitting of oil and gas development activities and infrastructure – altering pre-existing zoning arrangements where necessary. Several Pennsylvania townships and non-profits filed suit in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing that this preemption of local zoning control violated several aspects of Pennsylvania’s constitution. Read More