Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Oil & Gas Industry Fires Back on Pennsylvania Act 13 Challenge

A collection of companies and industry groups have asked to intervene in a lawsuit filed by seven Pennsylvania municipalities against recently passed shale legislation.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC, Penneco Oil Co. Inc. and Chesapeake Appalachia LLC made the request in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, PA, last week. The court plans to hear the case on Wednesday.

The majority of the omnibus legislation, called Act 13, goes into effect Saturday.

If Act 13 is struck down, the ability of companies to profit from their investments in the state would be harmed by local ordinances "hostile to oil and gas operations" and could be only challenged "in piecemeal litigation," the groups wrote.

The seven municipalities filed the suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson, Attorney General Linda L. Kelly and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael L. Krancer. While the petitioners say they are aligned with those defendants, they add that "their interests are not adequately represented" by them.

In particular, the companies claim "there has been a proliferation of inconsistent and varying zoning ordinances" and that many are "overtly hostile" to development.

They also question the claim that local ordinances are required for public safety, saying those issues are addressed by the Oil and Gas Act and the new Act 13.

Act 13 included an impact fee on unconventional gas drilling, enhanced environmental protections and an attempt to standardize regulations across the state by restricting the degree to which governments could zone development.

The seven Pennsylvania municipalities that filed a lawsuit claimed Act 13 superseded local authority over drilling and violated the state and U.S. Constitution. The municipalities, primarily from the southwestern part of the state -- Robinson Township, Township of Nockamixon, South Fayette Township, Peters Township, Cecil Township, Mt. Pleasant Township and the Borough of Yardley -- brought the lawsuit, along with environmental activists from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a few township officials and a doctor from Monroeville, PA (see Shale Daily, April 2).

"The overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians support the safe and responsible development of our natural gas resources. This lawsuit, filed by a vocal minority -- some of whom are represented by New York City-based attorneys -- lacks legal merit and should be dismissed," MSC President Kathryn Klaber said in a statement. "The men and women of Pennsylvania's natural gas industry, who live and work in the communities where we operate, are committed to responsibly developing this clean-burning and affordable energy resource for the benefit of 12.7 million Pennsylvanians and the nation. Nothing will distract us from that commitment."

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