VICTORY! Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want; Act 13, Gas Industry Takeover Law thrown out by State’s Highest Court

“By any responsible account,” Chief Justice Castille wrote, “the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court declares portions of shale-drilling law unconstitutional by Don Hopey, December 20, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared major provisions of the state’s Marcellus Shale drilling law, Act 13, unconstitutional Thursday, including one that allows gas companies to drill anywhere, overriding local zoning laws. The court’s decision, on a 4-2 vote, also sent back to Commonwealth Court for review and disposition challenges by a physician to the Act 13 provisions that would have prevented doctors from telling patients about health impacts related to shale gas development, and a constitutional challenge that the law benefits a single industry.

In affirming the municipalities’ standing to bring the Act 13 challenge, which was challenged by the state’s attorneys, Chief Justice Castille wrote in the 162-page majority decision that “t]he protection of environmental and esthetic interests is an essential aspect of Pennsylvanians’ quality of life and a key part of local government’s role.”
The decision also notes “how remarkable a revolution is worked by this legislation (Act 13) upon the existing zoning regimen in Pennsylvania, including residential zones,” and it questions whether the General Assembly can pass laws inconsistent with the constitutional mandate to protect the environment.

“By any responsible account,” Chief Justice Castille wrote, “the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”

He goes on to say that although the state’s regulatory powers are broad, they are “limited by constitutional demands, including the Environmental Rights Amendment.”

The decision sent shock waves through the shale gas industry, which had sought legislation guaranteeing uniform statewide land use rules, and the Corbett administration and legislators who had championed passage of the oil and gas law changes.

Adam Garber, field director with PennEnvironment, a statewide environmental advocacy organization, said the court’s decision shows that the state constitution’s environmental rights provisions have “serious teeth.”

“The Legislature made a huge overreach in trying to take over regulation of gas drilling from local municipalities,” Mr. Garber said. “The court said there are serious health and environmental impacts from gas drilling that the Legislature did not address and that local communities ought to.” [Emphasis added]

Pennsylvania supreme court strikes part of industry-friendly fracking law, Energy industry at the heart of US drilling considers next moves after reductions to 2012 law limiting local government regulation by The Guardian, December 20, 2013
The energy industry and policy makers in Pennsylvania, the heart of the nation’s gas drilling boom, are thinking about their next moves after the state’s highest court threw out significant portions of a law that limited the power of cities and counties to regulate the industry. The state supreme court voted 4-2 on Thursday to strike down portions of a 2012 law that had been crafted by governor Tom Corbett and his industry-friendly allies in the legislature. Republican leaders in the general assembly said the decision raised more questions than it answered and could damage the growing industry. They said they were not sure, for example, what the ruling would mean for the millions in impact fees being collected under the law.

The high court’s decision comes as the energy industry is increasingly able to harvest oil and gas from those previously unreachable formations and, as a result, is bumping up against suburban and urban expectations of land use in states including Texas, Colorado and Ohio, where a similar legal challenge is under way. The court majority said the law violated the state constitution, although they issued different opinions about why.

“Few could seriously dispute how remarkable a revolution is worked by this legislation upon the existing zoning regimen in Pennsylvania, including residential zones,” wrote chief justice Ron Castille. He said the law’s rules represented an unprecedented “displacement of prior planning, and derivative expectations, regarding land use, zoning, and enjoyment of property.” …

….many in the industry made it a top priority to secure a law that eliminated any municipal authority over how drilling companies could operate. Corbett took office in 2011 and backed the industry, believing that a 1984 state law had intended to do that anyway. Colorado and Ohio have recently passed such laws. In New York, where state officials essentially put MarcellusShale drilling on hold, state courts are currently deciding whether local governments have the right to ban the industry from operating within their borders. The law restricted local municipalities’ ability to control where companies may place rigs, waste pits, pipelines and compressor and processing stations. The new zoning rules never went into effect because of a court order. A narrowly divided lower court struck them down in 2012, but Corbett appealed, saying lawmakers have clear authority to override local zoning. Among the objectionable provisions cited by the lawsuit were requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential, as long as certain buffers were observed.

Justice J Michael Eakin said he would have upheld the law. He had concerns about the power the majority gave to the state’s thousands of local entities at the expense of the Legislature. “Giving standing to some 2,500 sets of local officials to sue the sovereign based on alleged violations of individual constitutional rights is misguided, and will have precedential repercussions — I fear we will soon face a tide of mischief that will flow from such an ill-advised notion,” Eakin said. [Emphasis added]

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want by Katie Valentine, December 19, 2013, Thinkprogress
The Court said Act 13 “fundamentally disrupted” the expectations of Pennsylvania residents living in residential zones, and that the provision wasn’t in line with the constitution or Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment. … “To describe this case simply as a zoning or agency discretion matter would not capture the essence of the parties’ fundamental dispute regarding Act 13,” the ruling read. “Rather, at its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindiction of citizens’ rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety and the owners’ continued enjoyment of their private property.”

In addition, challenges by Pennsylvania citizens and townships on provisions in the law that prohibit doctors from telling patients about health impacts related to fracking chemicals were sent back to Commonwealth Court for reevaluation. The “physician gag order” (or “frack gag”) was recently challenged by a doctor who claimed it infringed on his First Amendment rights and his duties as a doctor, but his challenge was thrown out by a Pennsylvania court in October. The Supreme Court’s decision to send the Commonwealth Court’s decision back down for re-evaluation spells trouble for the gag order. Doctors have expressed concern over this rule in Pennsylvania and what it means for their patients – a report from Pennsylvania documented a range of health problems affecting residents living near natural gas operations, including skin rashes, headaches and chronic pain. [Emphasis added]

Pennsylvania: Court Strikes Measures Favoring Gas Industry by The Associated Press, December 19, 2013, The New York Times
The State Supreme Court on Thursday struck down portions of a law that stripped some of municipalities’ power to decide where the natural gas industry can operate. The justices ruled 4 to 2 that the 2012 law unconstitutionally restricted that power. Seven municipalities challenged a law that grew out of the state’s need to modernize drilling laws to account for a Marcellus Shale drilling boom made possible by innovations in drilling and technology. Among provisions cited by the lawsuit are requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed. The rules had never gone into effect.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Municipalities, and Pennsylvania Physician Prevail in Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Act 13, Municipal Preemption Law, Gas Industry Takeover Law thrown out by State’s Highest Court Press Release by Delaware Riverkeeper and Network and Jordan B. Yeager, Counsel for plaintiffs, December 19, 2013
Pittsburgh PA – The PA Supreme Court has ruled Act 13 is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Notably, the Court stated, ““As the citizens illustrate, development of the natural gas industry in the Commonwealth unquestionably has and will have a lasting, and undeniably detrimental, impact on the quality of these core aspects [life, health, and liberty: surface and ground water, ambient air, etc.] of Pennsylvania’s environment, which are part of the public trust.” Opinion at 117.

Additionally, the Court stated, ““By any responsible account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.” Opinion at 118.

The Decision and concurring opinion

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that Act 13 violates the Pennsylvania Constitution.  In doing so, the Court struck down the shale gas industry’s effort to force every municipality in the state to allow gas drilling and related industrial operations in every zoning district.  The Court’s decision upholds the ability of local governments to protect their local communities and natural resources through zoning.  Chief Justice Castille authored the historic majority opinion.  Justices Todd, McCaffrey and Baer joined in the result.

Justices Castille, Todd, and McCaffrey held that the provisions violate Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution – the Environmental Rights Amendment.  Justice Castille stated that “we agree with the citizens that, as an exercise of the police power, Sections 3215(b)(4) and (d), 3303, and 3304 are incompatible with the Commonwealth’s duty as trustee of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources.”  In discussing Section 3304’s uniform zoning provisions, Justices Castille, Todd, and McCaffrey agreed that the provisions “sanctioned a direct and harmful degradation of the environmental quality of life in these communities and zoning districts.”  They also concluded that the Act forced some citizens to bear “heavier environmental and habitability burdens than others” in violation of Section 27’s mandate that public trust resources be managed for the benefit of all the people.

Justice Baer concurred in finding Act 13 unconstitutionality, agreeing with the Commonwealth Court’s reasoning.  Justice Baer stated that the provisions “force municipalities to enact zoning ordinances, which violate the substantive due process rights of their citizenries.”  He further noted “Pennsylvania’s extreme diversity” in municipality size and topography and that zoning ordinances must “give consideration to the character of the municipality,” among other factors, which Act 13 did not. “The Court has vindicated the public’s right to a clean environment and our right to fight for it when it is being trampled on.  Today the environment and the people of Pennsylvania have won and special interests and their advocates in Harrisburg have lost.  This proves the Constitution still rules, despite the greedy pursuits of the gas and oil industry.  With this huge win we will move ahead to further undo the industry’s grip of our state government,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “This is a great historic victory for local democracy, for public health, and for the health of our environment.  The shale gas industry overreached, greedily wanting to operate without respecting local concerns and without playing by the same set of rules everyone else has to play by.  The Corbett Administration and the General Assembly went along with it and tried to give away our rights to the gas industry.  The Supreme Court has made it clear that what they were trying to do violates our state Constitution.  It’s a great day for the Constitution and the people of the Commonwealth”, said Jordan Yeager, counsel for the plaintiffs.

“The gas industry tried to take over every inch of every municipality in Pennsylvania for drilling, regardless of the zoning rights of local governments and the residents they represent.  The industry and their backers in Harrisburg overreached when they thought they could literally takeover the state, turning it into one big drilling and gas infrastructure site.  We fought this law because it was illegal and because it spelled ruin for public health and the environment, even though we, as plaintiffs, didn’t have nearly the resources our powerful and well-funded opponents had.This proves, when you have the law and environmental rights on your side, it’s worth fighting and you can win,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also reversed Commonwealth Court’s finding that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network lacked standing in this case. Specifically, the court found that DRN’s members engendered “a substantial and direct interest in the outcome of the litigation premised upon the serious risk of alteration in the physical nature of their respective political subdivisions and the components of their surrounding environment. This interest is not remote.” Opinion at 21-22. Furthermore, the court also found that Maya van Rossum, as the Executive Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, also has standing in her official capacity to represent the membership’s interests.” Opinion at 22. The ruling therefore sets important precedent for what immediate interest or harm environmental organizations and their members need to demonstrate in order to properly establish standing.

Additionally, in a reversal of the findings of the Commonwealth Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that Dr. Khan satisfies standing requirements. The court noted that “existing jurisprudence permits pre-enforcement review of statutory provisions in cases in which petitioners must choose between equally unappealing options and where the third option, here refusing to provide medical services to a patient, is equally undesirable.” Opinion at 25. In other words, provisions of Act 13 put Dr. Khan in the untenable and objectionable position of choosing between violating Act 13’s confidentiality agreement and “violating his legal and ethical obligations to treat a patient by accepted standards, or not taking a case and refusing a patient medical care.” Id. Therefore, Dr. Khan’s interests were indeed “substantial and direct…not remote,” and conferred standing. Opinion at 26. The Court remanded Dr. Kahn’s case to the Commonwealth Court for further proceedings.


Seven municipalities, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Dr. Mehernosh Khan filed a legal pleading in Commonwealth Court on March 29, 2012 challenging Act 13, also known as HB1950, which was signed into law by Governor Corbett on February 14, 2012.  The municipalities are:  Township of Robinson, Washington County; Township of Nockamixon, Bucks County; Township of South Fayette, Allegheny County; Peters Township, Washington County; Township of Cecil, Washington County; Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County; and the Borough of Yardley, Bucks County.   Act 13 amends the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, preempting municipal zoning of oil and gas development.  It also establishes an impact fee on natural gas.  The named Appellants are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”); Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania; and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”).

The Petitioners argued that Act 13 is an unconstitutional violation of:  1) Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; 2) Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution; 3) Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; 4) Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; 5) Article III, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; 6) Due Process Principles; and 7) The Doctrine of Separation of Powers.  The legal challenge was considered essentially important for the Appellees because Act 13 guts local zoning of gas and oil operations and endangers public health, natural resources, communities and the environment.

On July 26, 2012 the Commonwealth Court declared the statewide zoning provisions in Act 13 unconstitutional, null, void and unenforceable.  The Court also struck down the provision of the law that required DEP to grant waivers to the setback requirements in Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act.  On October 17, 2012 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard argument that Pennsylvania’s Act 13 is unconstitutional, unjustly supersedes all local ordinances related to oil and gas operations, extinguishes municipal zoning of these operations, and exposes the public and the environment to pollution and degradation from these activities.  Attorneys for the case appeared before the Court, which heard the Commonwealth’s appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s declaration that overturned the municipal preemption provisions and environmental waiver provisions of Act 13.

The Court has been deliberating the case since argument was heard more than a year ago.

Original Petitioners in Legal Challenge
Township of Robinson, Washington County
Township of Nockamixon, Bucks County
Township of South Fayette, Allegheny County
Peters Township, Washington County
Township of Cecil, Washington County
Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County
Borough of Yardley, Bucks County
Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Delaware Riverkeeper
Dr. Mehernosh Khan

Municipalities represented by Natural Resources Defense Council as Friends of the Court
Wilkins Township, Allegheny County
East Finley Township, Washington County
Tinicum Township, Bucks County
Municipality of Murrysville, Westmoreland County
Municipality of Monroeville, Allegheny County
Borough of Bell Acres, Allegheny County
City of Bethlehem, Northampton and Lehigh Counties

Other Amicus Briefs filed in support of Commonwealth Court decision
Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association
Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs
Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors
Pittsburgh City Council
Mountain Watershed Association

Nonprofit organizations represented by Earthjustice as Friends of the Court
Berks Gas Truth
Brockway Area Clean Water Alliance
Clean Air Council
Clean Water Action
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund
Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County PA
Group Against Smog and Pollution
Pennsylvania Division of the Izaak Walton League
League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Local Authority Western PA
Marcellus Outreach Butler
Marcellus Protest
Responsible Drilling Alliance
Sierra Club
Thomas Merton Center
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s Group

State Supreme Court rules municipalities can limit what gas drillers can do by Timonthy Puko, December 19, 2013, Tribune-Review
The 4-2 ruling Thursday undoes the state’s attempt — passed as Act 13 in February 2012 after years of debate — to create uniform rules and allow drilling in all types of neighborhoods in every municipality statewide. Without those new rules going into effect, municipal governments will be able to block off some, though not all, of their neighborhoods from drilling and subject drillers to reviews before issuing them drilling permits. South Fayette in Allegheny County and Cecil, Peters, Mt. Pleasant and Robinson in Washington County led the group that sued to strike down the state limits on local control. The municipalities argued that by limiting those powers, the law unconstitutionally barred them from protecting residents and property rights by keeping drilling away from schools, parks and businesses. The 162-page Supreme Court decision spoke at length of the state’s history of environmental degradation, and decreed that the state does not have absolute power over municipalities in terms of environmental protection. Act 13 puts municipalities in direct conflict with their constitutional power to protect the environment, the court said, ruling that the state overstepped its powers by trying to apply uniform rules to all municipalities.

“To put it succinctly, our citizens buying homes and raising families in areas zoned residential had a reasonable expectation concerning the environment in which they were living, often for years or even decades,” Chief Justice Castille wrote. “Act 13 fundamentally disrupted those expectations, and ordered local government to take measures to effect the new uses, irrespective of local concerns.”

… With more than 2,500 municipalities in the state, gas drillers will now have to deal with the uncertainty of different decisions from each one, said Ken Komoroski, an attorney at Downtown-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, “It’s certainly bad news, for everyone I think,” he said. “What the industry seeks is certainty, and that was lost as much as it could be lost.”

The ruling could trigger a flurry of activity from drilling industry lobbyists and lawyers, experts had said as they awaited the high court’s decision. The industry likely will pressure state lawmakers to try again….With the case settled, there’s also the specter of new court challenges. … The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors have been planning together in advance of the ruling to cooperate and try to avoid legal conflicts between drilling companies and municipalities, PIOGA executive director Louis D’Amico said Thursday. “That doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “It’s very costly and it’s always a battle when we go to court. Townships don’t want it and we don’t want it.”

… Pennsylvania municipalities cannot oversee environmental issues at well sites — that’s the state’s job — but long have had control over land-use decisions. Many communities moved to tighten those rules, requiring drillers to meet more conditions on noise, light and traffic at work sites before they could obtain permission to drill, especially in residential areas. The high court’s ruling affirms the right of municipalities to make those rules. They can require reviews before permitting each drill site within their borders and ban drilling in some neighborhoods, powers that Act 13 most notably eliminated.

… If drillers want lawmakers to make another attempt to streamline local rules, details of the state Supreme Court ruling will have to guide the Legislature, experts said. One option may be to write a model ordinance for municipalities, then pass a law that allows them to get impact fee money only if they use that ordinance, industry attorney Komoroski said. “If they can’t do it with a sledgehammer, they’re going to have to do with a carrot,” attorney Kevin McKeegan, a municipal land use specialist with Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP, Downtown, said in a December 2012 interview. Industry lobbyists may have trouble getting the fractious General Assembly to take a second crack at limiting local control after it spent more than two years and failed to find a solution that passed the courts’ test. [Emphasis added]

Pennsylvania Supreme Court declares portions of shale-drilling law unconstitutional by Don Hopey, December 19, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional major provisions of the state’s Marcellus Shale drilling law, Act 13, including one that allowed gas companies to drill anywhere, overriding local zoning laws. The court’s decision, on a 4-2 vote, also sent back to Commonwealth Court challenges by townships and individuals to the Act 13 provisions that would have prevented doctors from telling patients about health impacts related to shale gas development. Voting in the majority were Chief Justice Ronald Castille and justices Debra McCloskey Todd, Seamus McCaffery and Max Baer. Justices Thomas Saylor and J. Michael Eakin filed dissenting opinions.

Deron Gabriel, commission president in South Fayette, the only Allegheny County municipality to challenge the shale gas law passed in 2012, said the decision preserving municipalities’ zoning rights was a victory for all residents of the county and the state. “Preserving zoning is vital to local planning efforts, in order to keep industrial activity out of residential and commercial areas,” Mr. Gabriel said. “Now we can keep industrial activities away from our school and residences, and there’s been more and more of a push by the industry to locate closer to the residential areas.” John Smith, the lead attorney representing South Fayette and the other municipalities which brought the case, said the decision was a welcome one. “We got the major thrust of what we were looking for,” he said. “The drill-everywhere provision was declared unconstitutional and that part of the law was permanently enjoined.” Mr. Smith later issued a statement thanking the municipalities that signed up to challenge the law, which was sought by industry. “A debt of gratitude,” he wrote, “is owed to all municipalities and individuals who fought so hard to ensure that their rights and the rights of Pennsylvania citizens were not cast aside in favor of corporate interests.”

The State Department of Environmental Protection, whose lawyers argued against the municipal challenge and in favor of Act 13,
did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gov. Tom Corbett, who had supported the legislation and signed it into law, issued a statement saying he was disappointed by the decision. He maintained that it improved environmental protections while respecting local government rights. “The Act was crafted with strong input and support from Pennsylvania’s local government organizations,” he said. “We must not allow today’s ruling to send a negative message to job creators and families who depend on the energy industry. I will continue to work with members of the House and Senate to ensure that Pennsylvania’s thriving energy industry grows and provides jobs while balancing the interests of local communities.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer issued a statement saying the industry lobbying organization was reviewing the decision to determine its impact on shale gas operations across the state. “As we did prior to enactment of Act 13 and have done during this period of review by the state Supreme Court, Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry will continue to work corroboratively with the communities in which we operate to ensure shale development moves forward and we continue to realize the benefits at the local level and statewide,” he said in the statement. “Although we will continue to collaborate with communities across the Commonwealth, today’s decision is a disappointment and represents a missed opportunity to establish a standard set of rules governing the responsible development and operation of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania.” Mr. Spigelmyer said the decision also is a reminder to policymakers of the state’s business climate challenges. “If we are to remain competitive and our focus is truly more job creation and economic prosperity,” he said, “we must commit to working together toward common sense proposals that encourage – rather than discourage – investment into the Commonwealth.” [Emphasis added]

BREAKING NEWS: PA Supreme Court rules in favor of local communities, constitutional protections in landmark Act 13 decision by State Republican Jesse White, December 19, 2013
Rep. Jesse White hails landmark Supreme Court Act 13 ruling upholding local communities and Constitutional environmental rights as ‘historic victory’

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Washington/Allegheny/Beaver, released the following statement on today’s landmark ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding Act 13, which upholds and expands the Commonwealth Court’s July 2012 decision to strike down sections of the Pennsylvania gas drilling law taking away local zoning rights as unconstitutional.

In making its ruling, the Supreme Court relied upon Article 1, Sec. 27 of the PA Constitution which guarantees the right of clean air and water for Pennsylvanians, as well as the violation of substantive due process rights stemming from various provisions of Act 13, including the provision superseding local zoning ordinances. The Court also ordered Commonwealth Court to revisit several arguments previously thrown out, including the controversial “physician gag order”. The local impact fee portion of Act 13 remains unaffected by today’s decision.

White’s statement is as follows: “Today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a historic victory at a critical moment for the people of Pennsylvania. By affirming every Pennsylvanian’s constitutional right to clean air and clean water and upholding the right of local communities to govern themselves when it comes to certain aspects of natural gas development, a clear message has been sent to Governor Corbett and his friends in the energy industry: our fundamental Constitutional principles cannot be auctioned off to wealthy special interests in exchange for campaign dollars. On this day, David has defeated Goliath. “Despite the $1.3 million spent by the energy industry to write and pass its own law, and a Governor and legislature all too eager to play along, each court that heard this case recognized the massive problems created by the zoning loopholes in Act 13. Eliminating local ordinances and replacing them with a ridiculously low standard of protections, like allowing drilling in residential neighborhoods and next to schools and churches, is not constitutional, not an environmental best practice, nor is it the proper way to do business in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court has made clear that anything less than true best practices when it comes to natural gas drilling moving forward will be unacceptable.

“I applaud the prudence and courage of the local municipalities that challenged this ill-conceived law, most of which reside in the 46th Legislative District. Furthermore, I am proud to have given my unequivocal, unabashed and unwavering support to the effort to have it repealed. Thankfully, the courts agreed that the legislature has no business passing laws to exclusively benefit one industry over another, and ultimately, that what might be good for Wysox or Athens Township in northeastern Pennsylvania may not be good for Cecil or South Fayette Township here in the southwest. As we’ve said all along, this is why local zoning is so important.  [Emphasis added]

Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down zoning limits on drilling by Vindy, December 19, 2013
The booming gas industry won provisions in a 2012 law that required municipalities to allow drilling, waste pits and pipelines in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers were observed. Seven municipalities challenged it, and had won in a lower court. One of their lawyers, Jordan Yeager, says it’s a victory for local governments, public health and the environment. Gov. Tom Corbett and Republican lawmakers had championed the provisions. [Emphasis added]

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