Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter
For Immediate Release
P. O. Box 606
July 26, 2012
Harrisburg, PA 17108
Sierra Club Hails Court Action to Strike Down Oil and Gas Law
For more information, Contact:
Jeff Schmidt, 717-232-0101
Thomas Au, 717-234-7445
Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Sierra Club hailed Commonwealth Court’s decision striking down the Corbett Administration’s attempt to override municipal zoning powers. The General Assembly adopted the Oil and Gas Law (Act 13) in February. The law included unprecedented provisions to allow oil and gas operations in all districts in a municipality, regardless of current zoning. A separate provision in the law that allowed state Department of Environmental Protection officials to waive setback requirements for gas wells also was overturned. Today the court declared these provisions in the law null and void.
The majority opinion states that requiring municipalities to change their zoning rules in a way that would conflict with their development plans violates substantive due process. The court found the law does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications. Further, the court held that the law is irrational because it requires municipalities to allow drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts.
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Jeff Schmidt commented on the court’s action. “We applaud the court’s willingness to protect local land use decisions. The Corbett Administration tried to give the gas industry special privileges for land use that others do not have. The law would have wiped out local zoning review. We were dismayed that legislators, in enacting this law, were unwilling to take a stand to protect municipal rights and were unwilling to protect their constituents.”
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