Today, a Pennsylvania court issued a preliminary injunction (PDF) against a portion of a controversial state law—Act 13—that sought to override local zoning laws related to the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The court ruled these local laws can remain on the books and in effect until they are challenged and found invalid. The court also delayed the effective date of the state law for an additional 120 days, to give municipalities time to amend local laws, should they choose to do so.
Seven municipalities and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network asked for the preliminary injunction. Together with a physician who is concerned about provisions of the law preventing disclosure of toxic chemicals used for fracking, they are challenging the constitutionality of Act 13.
Earlier this year in New York State, courts twice ruled in favor of towns that have banned industrial gas development within their borders. The non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice filed a friend-of-the-court brief and presented oral arguments in one of the New York cases. Pennsylvania’s high court also recognized the right of localities to enact local zoning laws, but Act 13 overrode the court decision.
The following is a statement by Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg:
“For the third time in as many months, state courts have recognized that local municipalities have rights that must be respected when industrial activities are proposed for their communities. This is terrific news, not only for the people of Pennsylvania, but for communities across the country trying to defend their way of life from destructive gas development. Today’s ruling will provide time for communities daring to stand up to the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania to challenge the law that tramples on local zoning power.”