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Pennsylvania PUC Appeals Act 13 Ruling to State Supreme Court

In a second go-round, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has asked the state's Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a lower court's ruling that it does not have the authority to review and challenge local zoning ordinances that are not conducive to oil and natural gas development.

Attorneys representing the PUC filed a notice of appeal on Aug. 14, less than one month after the Commonwealth Court ruled that the agency could not review local ordinances and possibly withhold impact fee revenue generated under Act 13, the state's troubled omnibus Marcellus Shale law (see Shale Daily, July 17).

An attorney with knowledge of the case said the appeal was based purely on Sections 3305 through 3309 of the state's Oil and Gas Act, the adjudicatory provisions that allow PUC to benchmark ordinances to see if they comply with the remaining parts of Act 13 [Robinson Township et al v. Commonwealth et al, No. 284 MD 2012]. Last December, the high court invalidated large sections of the law (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2013).

"Those sections were not thrown out originally in the first go-round at the Supreme Court," the attorney, who requested anonymity, told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "They remained inactive for the parts of Act 13 that were found to be unconstitutional.

"The second round of arguments was whether those provisions could have efficacy for the parts of Act 13 that weren't challenged. The Commonwealth Court held that no, they couldn't; even for the parts of Act 13 that survived, PUC still wasn't allowed to use those tools."

In January, the PUC and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking it to reconsider its ruling against Act 13 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 3).

A Commonwealth Court judge also ruled against the PUC in 2012 and issued a cease and desist order against the agency from acting upon requests pursuant to Section 3305 (see Shale Daily, Oct. 31, 2012).

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