The state Commonwealth Court on Thursday struck down portions of Pennsylvania’s newly enacted legislation governing Marcellus Shale operations—also known as Act 13—as unconstitutional.
In the 54-page opinion filed by President Judge Dan Pellegrini, stated:
“Petitioners allege that they have close to 150 unconventional Marcellus Shale wells drilled within their borders, and Act 13 prevents them from fulfilling their constitutional and statutory obligations to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens, as well as public natural resources from the industrial activity of oil and gas drilling. Petitioners allege that Act 13 requires them to modify many of their zoning laws.”
The petitioners, which included a cluster of local communities including Cecil and Peters, an environmental group and a medical doctor, has asked the court to throw out portions of the zoning regulations under Act—and it did.
“We grant petitioners’ Motion for Summary Relief, declare 58 Pa C.S. §3304 unconstitutional and null and void, and permanently enjoin the Commonwealth from enforcing it,” the order read.
Reached Thursday morning, Cecil solicitor John Smith—who handled the challenge—said: “I think it’s a great day for local government and a great day for Pennsylvania.”
The attorney added, “Our system of checks and balances worked. The Legislature overstepped, and the court did its job declaring portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional.”
Cranberry Township supervisor Dick Hadley, who noted towship's current ordinance is in compliance with the Oil & Gas Act, said he hopes the ruling is allowed to stand.
"With regard to the elimination of the statewide ban on local zoning, this will allow local government to plan for the orderly development of their municipalities, which Cranberry Township is well noted for," he said.
He added the township solicitor will give officials an update on the decision at Thursday's board of supervisors meeting.
Cecil Township supervisor Andy Schrader, who was a proponent of the challenge, said, “I think the whole purpose of this challenge was to protect our residents and with this ruling, it will give us some legal standing under our zoning laws to do that. That’s what this was all about for me.”
To read the entire opinion, click here.
Cranberry Editor Jessica Sinichak contributed to this article.