Jul 27, 2012

Commonwealth Court Strikes Down Key Portions of Act 13, The Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Act

On July 26, 2012, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, struck down portions of Pennsylvania’s controversial Act 13, known as the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Act. The Court ruled unconstitutional the provisions of Act 13 which superseded local zoning laws.

Prior to this decision, Act 13 required municipalities to amend zoning ordinances to allow natural gas drilling in all zoning districts. Drilling could occur within 500 feet of buildings and water wells; within 300 feet of springs, rivers, and wetlands; and within 1,000 feet of sources of public drinking water.

President Judge Dan Pellegrini’s majority opinion held that forcing local officials to change their zoning ordinances, “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications.”

Opponents of Act 13 lauded the decision for giving power back to local authorities who are best able to protect the interests of its citizens. Prior to the decision, more than 300 permits for gas drilling had been filed in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County alone.

This decision is expected to be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

If you have questions about this legal alert, or would like more information, please contact the Land Use Group at Eastburn and Gray.

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