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New drilling measure has some upset over zoning preemption

2/16/2012 | Real Estate Blog

Last week, we noted that the state House voted 101-90 to approve a compromise plan on a measure that would impose an “impact fee” on companies engaged in natural gas drilling. The measure has not yet been signed by Governor Corbett.

As we’ve noted along the way, the measure will be imposing statewide zoning and land-use rules for pipelines and wells, which in practice will render as many as 200 local land-use ordinances ineffective. That aspect of the measure was quite controversial, as we have explained.

Governor Corbett was among those who strongly supported the measure, on the grounds that standardized rules will allow the natural gas drilling industry to flourish. Some communities, as the governor has noted, had altogether banned natural gas drilling, which prevented the industry from moving in.

The states surrounding Pennsylvania have already taken steps to invalidate local zoning laws in order to centralize zoning rules for the natural gas industry.

The measure will require that wells and pipelines be permitted in every zoning district, including residential neighborhoods. Communities may not classify drilling activities as a “conditional” use, as many have already done, as this measure allows strict conditions to be set on where and how drilling lines can be established.

Many are upset about the measure, which has been perceived as usurping the authority of local governments. The industry, though, will no doubt stand to benefit from the preemption, which will facilitate statewide operations.

Sources didn’t indicate how soon Governor Corbett would be signing the bill into law.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Pennsylvania impact fee for gas drillers comes with a catch,” Craig R. McCoy, February 12, 2012.