Quantcast

Court Reaffirms that Gas Company Profits Do Not Trump the Constitutional Rights of Pennsylvania Residents

Energy

Delaware Riverkeeper

A prime example is that Act 13 permits drilling and fracking in all zones, including close to homes in residential zones as seen in this photo.

Opponents of Act 13, an amendment to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act preempting municipal zoning of oil and gas development, won another victory Aug. 15 in Commonwealth Court. The court held oral argument on the question of whether its order declaring Act 13 unconstitutional and unenforceable should be stayed pending the Commonwealth’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Under Pennsylvania’s appellate court rules, when the Commonwealth appeals from an injunction order, that underlying injunction order is automatically stayed during the course of the appeal.
 
The parties challenging Act 13—including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Delaware Riverkeeper—filed a motion for relief from that automatic stay. In the ruling, the Commonwealth Court agreed that its order enjoining Act 13 should remain in place during the pending appeal. The Court found that the parties challenging Act 13 have a reasonable likelihood of success on appeal, that they would suffer irreparable harm without the injunction blocking enforcement of Act 13, and that there is minimal harm to the public by allowing the injunction to stay in place during the appeal.
 
“This injunction is essential to protect municipalities and the environment from further intrusion that would result if Act 13’s preemption of local zoning was allowed while we are awaiting Supreme Court action.  This rational decision is most welcome as we continue the battle forward to beat back industry interests”, said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum.
 
Jordan Yeager, Esq., representing Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Nockamixon Township and Yardley Borough said, “This ruling prevents the chaos that would have ensued if the Corbett administration and gas companies got their way. We are pleased that the Court has once again reaffirmed gas company profits do not trump the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania residents and property owners.”

The legal challenge to the chapter of Act 13 that took over municipal zoning of oil and gas operations was challenged by seven municipalities, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Dr. Mehernosh Khan in Commonwealth Court challenging Act 13 in March 2012. Act 13 not only amends the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, preempting municipal zoning of oil and gas development, it establishes an impact fee on natural gas. The plaintiffs have challenged the new law on the grounds it violates the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions and endangers public health, natural resources, communities and the environment.
 
In April, the Court issued a preliminary injunction against a portion of Act 13 ensuring that local zoning ordinances dealing with oil and gas operations remain in effect and were not immediately pre-empted by Act 13 on April 14, 2012.  On July 26, the Commonwealth Court declared the state-wide zoning provisions in Act 13 unconstitutional, null, void and unenforceable. The Court also struck down the provision of the law that required DEP to grant waivers to the setback requirements in Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act.
 
The municipalities are: Township of Robinson, Washington County; Township of Nockamixon, Bucks County; Township of South Fayette, Allegheny County; Peters Township, Washington County; Township of Cecil, Washington County; Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County; and the Borough of Yardley Bucks County.  Attorneys for the Petitioners are Jordan B. Yeager, Susan Kraham of Columbia University School of Law Environmental Law Clinic, John M. Smith, Jonathan M. Kamin, William A. Johnson, Esq.  At least seventy local governing bodies from throughout Pennsylvania have either adopted a resolution or voted to send a letter in support of the lawsuit based on the unconstitutionality of the law.
 
For information on how local governing bodies can express support for the challenge to Act 13 click here.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and FRACKING pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less