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Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20199
Nos. 14-000130, (Pa. Ct. C.P., 08/29/2014)

A Pennsylvania court vacated and reversed a town's decision to issue a special use permit allowing an energy company to construct and operate an unconventional natural gas well pad near landowners' private property. The landowners presented substantial evidence that there is a high degree of probability that the use will adversely affect the health, welfare, and safety of their neighborhood. Yet neither the company nor the local board met their burden of explaining how unconventional natural gas operations are compatible with the permitted uses in the residential district. Nor were the board's findings supported by substantial evidence; in some instances, the findings were clearly in contravention of the evidence. And while the court understood the constraints that the board may have been operating under as a result of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act (Act 13) and the litigation regarding its constitutionality, the citizens’ rights cannot be ignored and must be protected. The permit, therefore, was vacated.