Local officials are applauding a court decision that supports the right of municipalities to decide where Marcellus Shale development can occur.
But, they are keeping their eyes on an appeal to overturn that decision and revoke the right of communities to enforce their own regulations.
A panel of Commonwealth Court judges ruled July 26 that zoning provisions in Act 13 were unconstitutional, and the state cannot force towns to allow natural gas drilling and facilities in areas where local zoning rules prohibit them.
The state immediately appealed the finding to the state Supreme Court and requested an October hearing. Among plaintiffs in the lawsuit are South Fayette, Cecil, Peters, Mount Pleasant and Robinson, Washington County.
Brian Coppola, Robinson supervisors chairman, was pleased with the ruling that the statewide zoning requirements were unconstitutional.
"We got everything that we had asked for before this [Act 13] legislation had passed," Mr. Coppola said. "We got the impact fees, but we maintained local zoning control."
He was confident the Supreme Court will uphold the decision.
With state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin suspended, the court is divided -- three Democrats and three Republicans. Mr. Coppola said if the judges were tied, the Commonwealth Court decision would automatically stand. But he felt partisan politics would not come into play.
"The Supreme Court is more open to just deciding [our case] on the merits, and we feel on the merits it's a slam dunk for us."
South Fayette board president Deron Gabriel said the court victory has given the plaintiffs more conviction moving forward.
"The court decision was very sound and right on point, and I'm confident that the right result will be reached on appeal," Mr. Gabriel said. "Everyone was pleased with the ruling except for Tom Corbett and some industry players."
Mr. Gabriel said the decision placed community zoning ordinances on "solid legal ground."
Some not directly involved in the lawsuit said they were pleased the decision upholds their local zoning laws.
Findlay manager Gary Klingman said the verdict allows his township to continue its ban on gas drilling in neighborhoods.
"We hope that it's not overturned at the Supreme Court," he said. "Drilling for Marcellus has its place, and that's where we want to keep it."
Drilling is permitted in most other areas in Findlay, including industrial parks and Pittsburgh International Airport.marcellusshale - neigh_west
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.