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PA Supreme Court Strikes Provisions of Act 13

By a 4-2 vote, the PA Supreme Court has ruled that provisions of Act 13 are unconstitutional.  Click Here for a copy of the decision.  Click Here for a copy of the dissenting opinion from Justices Saylor & Eakin. 

Governor Corbett issued the statement below regarding the Court’s decision

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has invalidated some key provisions of Act 13. We are continuing to review today’s decision. Act 13 was a bipartisan accomplishment between the Administration and members of the General Assembly, which raised the bar on environmental protection standards while respecting the rights of local governments.

“The Act was crafted with strong input and support from Pennsylvania’s local government organizations. We must not allow today’s ruling to send a negative message to job creators and families who depend on the energy industry. I will continue to work with members of the House and Senate to ensure that Pennsylvania’s thriving energy industry grows and provides jobs while balancing the interests of local communities.” 

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Sam Smith issued the statement below regarding the Courts’s decision

“The decision made by four Supreme Court Justices today to invalidate a portion of Act 13 of 2012 is incredibly disappointing.  While recognizing that a decision of this length will take weeks to fully absorb, we are stunned that four Justices would issue this ruling which will so harshly impact the economic welfare of Pennsylvanians.  The majority decision seems to raise significantly more questions than it answers. 

“Chief Justice Castille’s opinion relies in part on inaccurate antidotes and unproven science.  The consequences of this decision will likely be the increase of natural gas prices for consumers, while at the same time costing a multitude of jobs in Pennsylvania.  It is important to note that this decision resets the clock on zoning prior to the enactment of Act 13, therefore municipalities will continue to have some statewide checks on local discretion. 

“The Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation was the result of great collaboration between state officials, local officials, industry leaders and environmental groups. There were dozens of strong environmental protections included in Act 13 and due to the Court’s jarring decision it seems that the Court even invalidated some of them. 

“The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors was fully engaged in numerous legislative discussions and supported the zoning language during passage, until they later decided to oppose it in court. The language in dispute was crafted with their full input. 

“In light of the broad severability language discussion contained in the majority opinion, there is some question whether the impact fee which has resulted in over $400 million over the past two years, will remain in place going forward.  

“A reasonable level of regulatory consistency across the Commonwealth is vital to the success of any major industry or employer – however the Supreme Court failed to recognize that in their majority decision.  Our fear now is that landowners and hardworking individuals will suffer because of today’s decision.” 

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa issued the statement below regarding the Court’s decision.

“The court’s decision to overturn portions of Act 13 – those provisions that involve zoning restrictions and the community’s right to protect their own water resources – provides Pennsylvania lawmakers with a second chance to craft a better, more responsible law.  This is an opportunity to revisit an issue and devise a shale drilling law that is meaningful; one that offers protections for our citizens, communities and a valuable Pennsylvania natural resource.

“While Act 13 included a wide range of subjects, it failed to institute a reasonable shale drilling tax and took too much control away from local municipalities.  We left too much control in the hands of gas drilling companies and the governor was too lenient in dealing with energy companies at the expense of Pennsylvania’s citizens and our communities.

           “Senate Democrats are hopeful that the governor will work with legislators on a balanced plan that includes a responsible approach to drilling restrictions and community protections.”

Earlier this year, Senate Democratic Caucus filed an amicus brief in support of overturning the blanket local zoning preemption provision and the setback requirements related to sensitive water resources in Act 13.

House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody issued this statement on the Court’s decision

“This ruling gives us an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and do this right.  We want to work with industry and environmental stakeholders to craft a law that will constitutionally protect the environment and also include a fair and reasonable severance tax on the oil and gas industry.

           “Today’s ruling reaffirms what House Democrats have been saying for two years – that Gov. Corbett’s sham of a Marcellus Shale drilling law wrongly and unconstitutionally stripped local communities of their zoning powers. The state Supreme Court today stood up for the important principle of local control, restoring zoning authority in Pennsylvania back to residents and municipalities. It is an important victory for the environment and the communities we live in.”

News Articles:

Pennsylvania Supreme Court declares portions of shale-drilling law unconstitutional

State Supreme Court rules municipalities can limit what gas drillers …

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