Some major parts of Pennsylvania’s two-year-old Marcellus Shale drilling law are unconstitutional, the state’s Supreme Court decided Thursday.
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, the court voted 4 – 2 that a provision that allowing natural gas companies to drill anywhere, regardless of local zoning laws, was unconstitutional. Seven municipalities had challenged the shale drilling law, known as Act 13, that required “drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed.”
The Court said Act 13 “ fundamentally disrupted” the expectations of Pennsylvania residents living in residential zones, and that the provision wasn’t in line with Pennsylvania’s constitution or Environmental Rights Amendment, which guarantees Pennsylvanians the “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
“To describe this case simply as a zoning or agency discretion matter would not capture the essence of the parties’ fundamental dispute regarding Act 13,” the ruling read. “Rather, at its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindiction of citizens’ rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety and the owners’ continued enjoyment of their private property.”