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Senate approves measure to strip municipalities of zoning power over gas drilling

12/23/2011 | Real Estate Blog

We recently wrote about a new Pennsylvania law updating the state’s old Oil and Gas Act which may end up restricting municipalities from zoning and regulating hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as “fracking.” As we noted, hydraulic fracturing is a process used to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas or other underground substances for extraction.

Last week, Pennsylvania lawmakers took initial steps to approve legislation that would impose an impact fee on oil and gas companies and prevent municipalities from establishing their own zoning rules with respect to fracking wells.

Companies looking to drill for natural gas must be permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection, and companies in the Delaware River watershed must also be permitted by the Delaware River Basin Commission. Many townships also regulate where drilling can take place.

But under the new legislation, municipalities would be required to permit drilling in every zoning district

Opponents of the legislation say the new measures would change the landscape of Pennsylvania towns for the worse. Some accused lawmakers of pursuing the legislation as a means to impose taxes and fees on drillers in exchange for making it easier for companies to do business. Supporters, though, say the measures will create jobs and prevent companies from going elsewhere with their business.

Under the new legislation, the Department of Environmental Protection maintains the right to deny a well permit application if it feels the impact of drilling would negatively affect public resources such as historical sites, drinking water supplies and endangered habitats.

The state Senate passed an amended version of one of the bills on Wednesday vote of 28-22, and that bill I snow set to go back to the House for a vote. If it passes there, the next step in the process would be to go to the governor.

It isn’t clear whether the measure will make it through, but it is certainly clear that there is some strong opposition to making drilling easier for companies.

Source:, “Bust for local zoning, boom for gas drilling,” Amanda Cregan December 19, 2011.