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Pa. intermediate appellate court strikes down major provisions of “fracking” law, P.2

8/3/2012 | Real Estate Blog

In our previous post, we noted that a Pennsylvania intermediate appeals court ruled that major provisions of the state’s new “fracking” law are unconstitutional. The specific provisions targeted by the court were those overriding local zoning environmental laws. These were among the most contentious of the law’s provisions. These provisions were overturned 4-3.

Dissenting judges argued that the law actually promotes the health, safety and welfare of citizens by establishing zoning guidance for local municipalities which ensures “uniform and optimal development of oil and gas resources.” The head of the Marcellus Shale Coalition-a group supporting growth in the fracking industry-said the purpose of the law was to provide “certainty and predictability that encourages investment and job creation.” The lack of uniformity in drilling regulation was thought to be a weak point in the development of the industry.

Opponents argued, however, that the law placed environmental and public health decisions in the hands of the gas industry. Environmental concerns about the drilling process have been part of the criticism from the beginning.

Governor Corbett’s office has said an appeal of the ruling is likely forthcoming. It isn’t clear how an appeal would fare. Earlier this year in New York, courts ruled twice to uphold local zoning authority over industrial gas development. Whether that will turn into a national trend in the industry isn’t clear.

One of the interesting things about this case is the importance of zoning authority, and the limits local zoning can place on industry development. Likewise, in real estate development, zoning can often be an obstacle to a project moving forward. And there are almost always some hindrances in development projects.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Major parts of Pa.’s natural-gas law ruled unconstitutional,” Bill Reed, July 28, 2012