Nockamixon’s sprint to maintain local control over gas drillers just took another turn.
The state Supreme Court has ruled on two cases in western Pennsylvania that will surely echo across county lines.
In written decisions Thursday, Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices sided with the state’s authority to control gas drilling, deeming that local laws cannot be in conflict with state regulations already in place.
But the court also confirmed that local officials do have the right to zone where in the municipality drilling can occur.
Supervisor Chairwoman Nancy Janyszeski was pleased with decisions, saying the zoning rights mentioned were an important distinction.
“It’s good. It allows the township to use zoning to determine where they can control drilling,” Janyszeski said Sunday, emphasizing that Nockamixon ordinances currently allow companies to drill only on properties zoned industrial or the quarry. “It also gives a good footing to move forward,” she said. “It’s given us clarification now.”
It’s unclear how many of the 250 property owners who hold gas leases in Nockamixon are within those boundaries, but the last state Department of Environmental Protection permit issued to drill in the Upper Bucks community did not fall within an industrial zone.
Oakmont in Alleghany County had been fighting engineering company Huntley & Huntley, which is involved in the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania.
Oakmont was sued by Huntley four years ago because borough officials refused to grant a permit to drill for natural gas in a residential neighborhood.
The same issue is at the heart of Nockamixon supervisors’ conflict with Michigan-based gas drilling company Arbor Resources, which is hoping to break ground in search of a natural gas goldmine in Upper Bucks.