While the Act 13 decision is under appeal, the zoning injunction will remain in place following a Commonwealth Court ruling.
When state officials filed their appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the initial decision in the Act 13 lawsuit, the order suspending the zoning changes was stayed.
A judge ruled that the court’s decision should remain in effect while the Supreme Court considers the matter.
This will avoid any potential conflicts with eligibility for the impact fees approved in the law. A muncipality’s zoning rules must be in line with the state guidelines in order for a municipality to be eligible for the fees, which are collected on Sept. 1.
Some municipalities would have found themselves ineligible for the impact fees without maintaining the injunction.
The Act 13 battle begain almost a month ago when Act 13 zoning provisions were thrown out in a Commonwealth court panel.
At that time, the court ruled that Pennsylvania cannot take zoning control away from local municipalities.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed the law in February creating an impact fee and determining what municipalities could include in their gas drilling zoning requirements.
In March a lawsuit was filed— by seven municipalities (including the towns of Cecil, Peters, South Fayette, Mt. Pleasant and Robinson; two towns in Bucks County; a Monroeville doctor; and environmental activists from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network)—arguing that the new law prevented protection of the health and public safety of the residents living in those municipalities.
The ruling declares the zoning provision null and void, and a separate provision that allows environmental officials to waive setback requirements for gas wells was also overturned.
One day later state officials appealed the court’s decision.
Gov. Tom Corbett spoke out against the ruling in July stating, “The provisions struck down by the Commonwealth Court are critically important for job creators who are employing more than 240,000 Pennsylvanians, for landowners seeking to exercise their property rights, and for local governments looking for guidance on how they may reasonably regulate oil and gas operations. The provisions are also integral to the enhanced environmental standards and impact fee revenue portions of the Act. Indeed, there would be no Act without each of these crucial pieces.”
The case now awaits review in the Supreme Court, with both sides seeking expedited consideration.