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7 municipalities sue state over new drilling law’s zoning provisions, P.2

4/2/2012 | Real Estate Blog

In our previous post, we noted that seven municipalities have filed suit against the state of Pennsylvania over a law passed earlier this year which grants drilling companies broad ability to continue with drilling activities. The law, as we said, has been somewhat polarizing between those who say it is necessary to support the growing drilling industry and those who decry the removal of municipalities’ ability to place restrictions on drilling activity.

When the bill was signed by Governor Corbett, he cited “increased uniformity and fairness” of local regulations as the intended goal of the law. Some land-use lawyers, commenting on the new law, have expressed surprise at the unprecedented extent to which municipalities have had their zoning authority removed. None, however, have opined that the new law is unconstitutional, as the lawsuit does.

In particular, the suit claims that the law violates the separation of powers doctrine, that it is unconstitutionally vague in sections concerning regulation of municipal zoning, and that it violates a number of procedural rules regarding legislation which are enumerated in the state constitution.

The plaintiffs in the suit will be asking for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect, and eventually they would like it struck down.

One thing for certain is that much work remains to be done before the law takes effect. The zoning provisions are set to take effect later on this month, and municipalities will have 120 days to comply. Many have yet to determine whether their current ordinances are legal. Those which are illegal will have to be replaced, and some may have to be defended in court.

Source:, “Towns sue Pa. over Marcellus Shale law,” Marc Levy, March 29, 2012.