Communities see Marcellus law as striking at heart of autonomy

Communities see Marcellus law as striking at heart of autonomy by Andrea Iglar, July 26, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hundreds of local communities — many of them without natural gas drilling sites — have registered support for a lawsuit against the state’s Marcellus Shale law. Regardless of the status of Marcellus Shale drilling in a community, municipal officials tend to agree the state should keep its nose out of local regulations. Even towns, such as Green Tree, that are less touched by natural gas development are uniting to defend their right to local governance. Green Tree Council has registered support for the legal challenge because Act 13 would strip zoning powers from local officials in favor of uniform statewide rules, manager Dave Montz said. “Taking our zoning rights away was offensive to us,” he said. … Municipalities across the state have adopted statements supporting the lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include South Fayette in Allegheny County and Cecil, Peters, Mount Pleasant and Robinson in Washington County. The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, representing 1,455 townships, approved resolutions in May opposing any state legislation — including amendments to the Oil and Gas Act — that would limit or remove local zoning and land use regulations. In addition, resolutions and letters of support have been approved by Allegheny County Council, Pittsburgh City Council and at least 62 other municipalities in 16 counties, according to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a Bristol, Pa., nonprofit watershed group that is a party to the lawsuit. Officials in Findlay, home of Pittsburgh International Airport, expressed support for the lawsuit to help defend its ban on drilling in residential areas, township manager Gary Klingman said. Act 13 would force the township to switch course and allow drilling in neighborhoods. “We went that extra step and said we want to make sure our residential zones are protected,” Mr. Klingman said. “We think our ordinance should stand.” … The case against Act 13 was argued in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg in June, and South Fayette officials think a ruling could occur soon. … Mr. Coppola said whichever party loses the court case is expected to appeal, so “either way, it’s going to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

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