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Robinson Township v. Commonwealth

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20158
Nos. 284, (Commw. Ct. Pa., 07/26/2012)

A Pennsylvania appellate court partially struck down Act 13, which pertains to oil and gas operations in the Marcellus Shale, as unconstitutional. The Act repealed Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act and replaced it with a codified statutory framework regulating oil and gas operations in the Commonwealth. Among other provisions involving the levying and distribution of impact fees and the regulation of the operation of gas wells, Act 13 preempts local regulation, including environmental laws and zoning code provisions except in limited instances regarding setbacks in certain areas involving oil and gas operations. Act 13 also gives the power of eminent domain to a corporation that is empowered to transport, sell, or store natural gas, and it requires uniformity of local ordinances. The court ruled that by requiring municipalities to violate their comprehensive plans for growth and development, §3304 of the Act, which pertains to local land use and zoning, 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. Accordingly, the court declared §3304 unconstitutional and null and void, and permanently enjoin the Commonwealth from enforcing it.