The zoning board of South Fayette, PA, has agreed with Range Resources Corp. to indefinitely postpone a hearing for the company's challenge to a 2010 ordinance that essentially restricts drilling in the small township.
According to news reports, the board voted unanimously to postpone arguments scheduled for this week after lawyers for both parties agreed no final decision could be made on the issue in the wake of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down key parts of the state's oil and gas law known as Act 13.
The battle between South Fayette, which is about 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, and Range started in 2011 when Range challenged a zoning ordinance passed by the township the year before (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18, 2011). The company argues that the $5,000 permit application fee and $25,000 in administrative and engineering fees the township is asking for, as well as a wide-range of setback rules, were too elaborate and expensive, making the application process nearly impossible.
In 2012, Range sued the township in Common Pleas Court and had two hearings on the matter with South Fayette before the township voted to reject the challenge because no plans for drilling had yet been put forward (see Shale Daily, Jan. 4, 2012). Currently, Range is supported in its challenge by landowner Cuddy Partners LP, which owns 400 acres in the township Range plans to drill on.
Range could not be reached to comment on Tuesday.
The company leases about 4,000 acres in South Fayette. Officials there said the parties hope the Pennsylvania courts will clarify some unresolved issues after the December ruling on Act 13, which returned the right of municipalities to enforce their zoning ordinances, struck down other provisions included in the law and remanded other parts of it to a lower court for further consideration (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2013).
Rather than argue what parts of the law apply to Range's challenge without a clear understanding of what still stands, the parties agreed to wait for clarification on Act 13. Range is one of Pennsylvania's largest operators with nearly 1 million net acres under lease.