PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For the past year and a half, the fight over Marcellus Shale gas drilling has centered around a law called Act 13.

The law states that oil and gas rights trump local zoning codes and would allow drilling 300 feet from residential neighborhoods or schools like South Fayette Elementary.

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Today in this weighty decision, the state Supreme Court returned that zoning power to the municipalities, saying it is their right to determine where there may or may not be drilling.

“It’s a victory for everyone who owns a house,” said Jonathan Kamin, the attorney for the plaintiffs. “It’s a victory for everybody who has a piece of property; it’s a victory for everybody who sends their kids to school; it’s a victory for the whole Commonwealth.”

Kamin represented a host of municipalities including South Fayette, Cecil and Mount Pleasant who sued to have Act 13 overturned.

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“Basically, what the court said today, and this is the Supreme Court, is that the legislature evisceration of local control was an unconstitutional act,” said Kamin.

The shale gas industry and the Corbett administration had argued for Act 13’s passage, saying a statewide standard for drilling is needed for the efficient extraction of natural gas.

Today, the Marcellus Shale Coalition of gas exploration companies issued a statement calling the Supreme Court decision “a disappointment and a missed opportunity,” saying it may well impact their ability to prosper.

“If we are to remain competitive and our focus is truly more job creation and economic prosperity, we must commit to working together toward common sense proposals that encourage – rather than discourage – investment into the Commonwealth,” the statement reads.

Both sides are still digesting this 162-page decision but it seems clear that this is a major victory for those who favor local control to decide where drilling is appropriate and where it is not.

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