Court Ruling Allows Municipalities To Restrict Natural Gas Drilling
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The state law would have allowed drilling activity to come within 300 feet of schools like South Fayette Elementary.
But South Fayette and other municipalities were victorious in Commonwealth Court which ruled they can restrict drilling in school and residential zones.
“This is great victory for Pennsylvania,” said Jonathan Kamin, attorney. “Because at this point, you can rest assure your zoning protections will be in place.”
By a 4 to 3 vote, the court said the state cannot require municipalities to allow drilling in places that conflict with their zoning rules.
“I believe it reaffirms everything that we’ve been saying for the past few months,” City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said.
The decision won’t allow an all-out drilling ban like the one passed in Pittsburgh, but city zoning could prevent drilling neighborhoods like Lincoln Place.
Rudiak says the court dealt an unexpected blow against the gas industry.
“In many ways they’ve acted like bullies,” she said. “They’ve come in here with their multi-million dollar lobbyists and they’ve gotten a statewide law just to apply to them.”
But the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Steve Forde says the decision could impact the state’s economy, making it harder for burgeoning industry to drill.
“This industry needs certainty across Pennsylvania in order to continue establishing the type of economic development and economic growth and the environmental benefits that are inherent to natural as production,” Forde said.
Late Friday, the state’s Public Utility Commission appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court.
“There is going to be another step that’s going to be taken before we do understand some finality with regard to Act 13 and we’ll allow those steps to play out,” Forde said.
And so the state Supreme Court will have final say on the matter of whether the municipalities can restrict drilling or whether the gas exploration companies can drill where they may.