Legal challenge over state shale law heads to court today

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The legal challenge over the state's new Marcellus Shale gas drilling law heads to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this morning.

State attorneys will be contesting the Commonwealth Court's July decision to overturn a portion of the law limiting local zoning rights.

A majority panel of that court sided with a set of local officials, who argued that the new law was unconstitutional because it would require them to allow well pads and compressor stations in areas where the activity would otherwise be prohibited.

That appellate decision also struck down a section that allowed the state Department of Environmental Protection to grant waivers regarding the required distance between a gas well and certain water sources.

The municipal challengers -- which include the southwestern towns of South Fayette, Cecil, Mount Pleasant, Robinson and Peters -- also are appealing several aspects in which the lower court did not agree, including whether the Public Utility Commission should be allowed to decide whether municipal ordinances comply with the state law.

The new drilling law, known as Act 13, was approved by the Legislature in February. In addition to its zoning requirements, it created a per-well fee and overhauled state environmental rules.

state - marcellusshale


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