The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday denied two leading Republican state lawmakers a chance to argue as interested parties in favor of the General Assembly's role in passing comprehensive oil and gas legislation into law in 2012.
The high court said neither demonstrated legal standing in the case, which struck down parts of Act 13 and remanded others to a lower court.
Pennsylvania State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and state House Speaker Samuel Smith had waited nearly two years for a decision concerning an appeal they filed with the high court after a lower court ruled that they had no standing in the case.
Tuesday's denial was the latest in a series of documents filed in the aftermath of the state’s supreme court’s controversial ruling in December that gave municipalities a right to change or enforce their zoning laws (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2013). The ruling has thrown into question the strength of the state's first major change to its oil and gas law in decades (seeShale Daily, Dec. 27, 2013; Feb. 15, 2012; Oct 22, 2012).
In affirming the lower court ruling, justices cited a similar case in which it was determined that the state's lawmakers could obtain legal status in any matter that questioned the power of their office or the General Assembly. But the justices found that Scarnati and Smith simply sought to offer their perspective on how the General Assembly did not violate the state’s constitution in enacting Act 13.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission have since challenged the December court ruling and asked the justices to return the case to a lower court for a review not based on Act 13’s constitutionality (see Shale Daily, Jan. 3). The townships that won the case filed an answer to the state's application for reconsideration, noting that the agencies had plenty of time to argue the law's constitutionality (see Shale Daily, Jan. 17).