FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dermody welcomes ruling that restores local authority
HARRISBURG, July 26 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said today’s court decision to overturn significant portions of the state’s Marcellus Shale impact fee law is a resounding victory for all Pennsylvania residents.
Dermody particularly welcomed the Commonwealth Court’s rejection of the law’s override of local zoning powers. With this ruling, the longstanding authority of municipalities to regulate land uses within their boundaries is preserved.
“The preemption of local zoning power was one of the most objectionable parts of this sham Marcellus Shale law which was pushed through by Republicans and signed by Governor Corbett in February,” Dermody said. “It stripped away the zoning rights of every local community in the state.”
“The court carefully weighed testimony on this question and made the correct decision to restore the rights of municipalities and put zoning back in the hands of local officials where it belongs,” he said.
“This will not hurt the ability of natural gas drillers to conduct their operations. It simply affirms that these companies don’t get the special treatment that the governor tried to ensure for them in Act 13. They have to comply with local zoning ordinances just like everybody else.”
In May, House Democrats introduced the Marcellus Compact, six bills designed to fix the worst flaws of the Marcellus Shale law. Dermody sponsored a bill (H.B. 2412) that would restore the rights of municipalities to determine how natural-gas drilling and related activities can be zoned in their communities.
The court’s decision addresses that concern but because the Corbett administration still might appeal, Dermody will continue to push for passage of his bill to protect the rights of all local residents.
“Development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves is bringing jobs and business to many communities,” Dermody said. “But it’s crucial that the drilling industry respects local zoning ordinances and is regulated so that the environment and neighbors are protected.
“Today’s ruling was a huge victory because without local control, people living anywhere in Pennsylvania would be unable to prevent a drilling rig or compressor station from being built next to a school, day care center, playground or church,” he said.
The court’s majority opinion specifically said the law “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.” (page 33)
Dermody noted that the House had a chance to repair the part of the law found to be unconstitutional on June 21 when he offered an amendment to another bill to address the zoning question. The Republican majority voted not to consider the amendment.
“The court struck an important blow to stop a small group of multi-billion-dollar, out-of-state oil and natural gas conglomerates from riding roughshod over Pennsylvania residents, families and whole communities,” Dermody said.
CONTACT: Bill Patton