Pa. high court won't reconsider decision on state oil and gas law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied an appeal from the Corbett administration to reconsider its decision on Act 13 that found parts of the state oil and gas law unconstitutional.

In effect, the court left in place a decision that said the new rules violated the state constitution.

The court did not elaborate on its decision in a two-sentence statement released this afternoon.

In a dissenting statement, Justice Thomas Saylor wrote that the court does not have enough evidence to overturn a legislative decision without jeopardizing the balance of government.

“The judiciary simply does not possess the ability to divine the consequences of a legislative enactment absent a developed factual record,” Mr. Saylor wrote.

James D. Schultz, general counsel to the governor, released a statement this evening, saying: “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has once again ruled in favor of an unprecedented expansion of judicial authority.”

“Not only has the Court set aside several critical environmental protections championed by both Governor Corbett and the General Assembly, they have infringed upon a fact-finding role that they have always held was not their role to invade,” Mr. Schultz said.

In a 4-2 vote in December, the court struck down portions of the law that limited local zoning. The Corbett administration asked the court to revisit the decision in January, claiming it relied on judgments about shale drilling's environmental consequences that were not substantiated by the arguments made before the court.

At the time three justices said the restrictions didn’t sufficiently protect the environment and the health and safety of people. A fourth justice said the law violated due process rights of municipalities to carry out community planning.

The case now goes to Commonwealth Court for more proceedings.


Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1969. Karen Langley contributed.

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