Pennsylvania Supreme Court Restores Local Control over Fracking

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John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment America

(Pittsburgh) – “PennEnvironment applauds today’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that overturned sections of Pennsylvania’s controversial gas drilling law, known as Act 13. With this ruling, municipal governments will once again have the ability to determine when and where fracking occurs in their locality. This is crucial for protecting public health, our environment and our communities.

“Today the Supreme Court delivered an early holiday gift to all Pennsylvanians who have said from day one that Act 13 was unconstitutional, extreme and a massive overreach by special interests. In an age where powerful interests such as the oil and gas industry dominate the political process in Harrisburg and alienate the general public, this court decision comes as a welcome victory where David has taken on Goliath – and won. Kudos to Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Jordan Yeager, John Smith, and the Pennsylvania communities who sustained this legal challenge from beginning to end.

“I find it ironic that our Republican-led administration that supposedly abhors government overreach and bureaucracy would fight for such policies, even going so far as to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s initial decision on this matter. Members of the legislature who voted for Act 13, a law with provisions so extreme that the courts found it unconstitutional, should feel ashamed. Today’s decision reaffirmed what Pennsylvanians from every corner of the commonwealth already know—that when it comes to gas drilling and fracking, local communities must have the ability to make thoughtful decisions to protect our citizens, our environment and our quality of life.

“While likely only in its infancy stage, shale gas extraction has left environmental damage and destruction in its wake: from water and air pollution; to exposure to toxic chemicals; to well blowouts and explosions; we’ve seen in no uncertain terms this intensive and shortsighted industrial activity should not be forced on our residential communities.

“The local zoning preemption provisions that were struck down today were shocking and appalling–tying the hands of local communities. We are heartened to see that the Court recognized this massive overreach by the Pennsylvania legislature is indeed unconstitutional.

“Across the country, we have seen local communities in Colorado, New Mexico, upstate New York, and most recently, Dallas, Texas, move to protect their citizens from dirty drilling when state officials have failed to do so. Given Harrisburg’s steadfast refusal to defend our air and water, today’s decision comes not a moment too soon.

“Additionally, we are encouraged by the Court’s reversal of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s decision on the so-called ‘medical gag rule’ provision of Act 13. Today’s decision now allows medical professionals to challenge the non-disclosure agreement within the law that would have prevented them from publicly sharing information they learned about certain chemicals and procedures used in fracking.

“All in all, this comes as very welcome news.”

staff | TPIN

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