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Act 13’s Local Zoning Provisions Put On Hold

Commonwealth Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Halting Zoning Limits in Act 13

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court preliminarily enjoined operation of the provision of Pennsylvania’s new Marcellus Shale Law that limits the power of municipalities to regulate the booming natural gas exploration industry.  The court enjoined the effectiveness of Section 3309 of the Act for 120 days, and denied the motion to enjoin the remainder of the Act’s provisions.  The court stated that the original period of 120 days under the Act to amend local zoning ordinances to comply with Act 13 was not sufficient.   “[M]unicipalities must have an adequate opportunity to pass zoning laws that comply with Act 13 without fear or risk that development of oil and gas operations under Act 13 will be inconsistent with later validly passed local zoning ordinances.  For that reason, pre-existing ordinances must remain in effect until or unless challenged pursuant to Act 13 and are found to be invalid,” Senior Judge Quigley stated.  He went on to suggest that the wider challenge to the constitutionality of the local zoning limitations is questionable, saying that he is not convinced that the “likelihood of success on the merits is high.”  The Commonwealth may appeal the ruling as a matter of right to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and if it does, the Commonwealth Court’s order will be subject to an automatic stay, thereby nullifying the effect of the injunction, pending further order of either the Commonwealth Court or the Supreme Court.

For the complete text of Act 13, please see:  Act 13.pdf 

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