By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania can’t supersede local zoning rules in favor of the natural gas drilling industry, ruled the Commonwealth Court on Thursday.
The justices struck down this major provision in the sweeping Marcellus shale drilling policy as unconstitutional and outside of the state government’s “police power.”
Act 13, enacted in March, also violates due process, because “it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm,” wrote Justice Dan Pelligrini in the majority opinion.
Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, said the zoning provisions were intended to provide certainty and predictability statewide for the companies trying to drill for natural gas.
“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 nature gas development,” she said in a statement.
Democrats had opposed the zoning provisions — that would allow oil companies to drill for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing — during debates in the state House and state Senate this spring.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, praised the court Thursday for overturning what he called “one of the most objectionable parts” of the drilling law.
“Development of the Marcellus shale natural gas reserves is bringing jobs and business to many communities,” Dermody said. “But it’s crucial that the drilling industry respects local zoning ordinances and is regulated so that the environment and neighbors are protected.”
Officials in seven municipalities filed the lawsuit.