The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down provisions of the state's Oil and Gas Act that stripped municipalities of the power to determine where natural gas drilling activity could occur within their boundaries.
The long-awaited decision is a blow to a 2012 law known as Act 13 that was promoted by Gov. Corbett and the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry as a means to create a uniform statewide standard for gas development.
By a 4-2 vote, the court ruled that the zoning provisions in the law were unconstitutional, though the court disagreed on the grounds for striking down the law.
"The bottom line is that the majority of the court agreed that Act 13 is unconstitutional, and that local governments can zone oil and gas drilling like they do other activities," said Jordan B. Yeager, a Doylestown environmental lawyer who argued the case on behalf of several municipalities.
Corbett, Republican legislative leaders, and the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the industry trade group, called the 162-page ruling a "disappointment" in separate statements.
"We must not allow today's ruling to send a negative message to job creators and families who depend on the energy industry," Corbett said in a statement. "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."
Dave Spigelmyer, the coalition's president, said the decision "represents a missed opportunity to establish a standard set of rules governing the responsible development and operation of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania."
Environmental groups applauded the decision, saying it would allow municipalities some control over where drilling and hydraulic fracturing take place.
By Susie Madrak — December 20, 2013