HARRISBURG -- A state judge has granted a 120-day halt to provisions in the new Marcellus Shale drilling law that would override local zoning ordinances for industry activity.
That order, released hours after a Commonwealth Court hearing in Harrisburg on the matter, prevents the land-use portions of that law from going from going into effect on Saturday.
Senior Judge Keith Quigley stated in the order that the local ordinances must remain in effect until a challenge under the new law finds them invalid.
"Municipalities must have an adequate opportunity to pass zoning laws that comply with Act 13 without the fear or risk that development of oil and gas operations under Act 13 will be inconsistent with later validly passed local zoning ordinances," according to the order.
The decision gives towns an additional 120 days beyond that already included in the law to revise their drilling-related rules.
The ruling does not prohibit the bulk of the 174-page statute -- including sections related to an impact fee and an overhaul of state environmental regulations.
The municipalities challenging the law -- Cecil, Peters, Mount Pleasant and Robinson in Washington County; South Fayette in Allegheny County; and two Bucks County towns -- argued this morning that the 120-day window included in the new law for bringing their ordinances into compliance creates a period of uncertainty.
Drilling companies and state attorneys said they believe the new state law would immediately pre-empt local rules, regardless of whether local officials are using that 120-day period to revise their ordinances.
That interpretation means there would be no local rules for oil and gas operations, the municipalities argued.homepage - breaking - state - marcellusshale
Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254.