In Big Victory, PA Supreme Court Rules Local Towns Retain Zoning Power


Declares a portion of pro-fracking, anti-community state law unconstitutional


Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7380

Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned 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 decision stems from a lawsuit by seven Pennsylvania municipalities and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network challenging the constitutionality of Act 13.

Earlier this year in New York State, two separate courts ruled in favor of towns that have limited industrial gas development through local zoning. The non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice is representing the town of Dryden, one of the New York towns.

The decision in Pennsylvania comes as the Ohio Supreme Court considers the same questions in a case that revolves around the zoning rights of local communities related to oil and gas development. Earthjustice has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of health professionals in that case.

The following is a statement by Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, who submitted an amicus brief in the Act 13 appeal on behalf of Berks Gas Truth, Brockway Area Clean Water Alliance, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County PA, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Pennsylvania Division of the Izaak Walton League, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Local Authority Western PA, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, PennEnvironment, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Sierra Club, Thomas Merton Center, and Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s Group:

“For the third time this year, 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 oil and gas development. Today’s ruling gives encouragement—and firm legal backing—to Pennsylvania communities daring to stand up to the oil and gas industry with local zoning laws.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that stripping away the rights of local communities to protect themselves from fracking isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s bad for democracy. Thanks to this ruling from the Supreme Court, the law is crystal clear: local officials have the right to decide what industrial activities are appropriate within their communities. These local decision-makers know what’s best for their towns. Not powerful oil and gas companies, nor their bought-and-paid-for state politicians.”

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