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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sixty Seven Municipalities Go on Record Opposing Municipal Preemption By Act 13

Pennsylvania Municipality Support for Legal Challenge to Act 13 Growing
Sixty Seven Municipalities Go on Record Opposing Municipal Preemption

by Delaware Riverkeeper Network 
 
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – As the reality of Pennsylvania’s Act 13 sets in at the
local level in Pennsylvania, there is a groundswell of disapproval. In customarily deliberate and
carefully considered fashion, municipalities throughout the state are publicly adopting resolutions
and sending letters in support of the legal challenge to Act 13, the municipal takeover law that was
adopted by the Pennsylvania Legislature and enacted by Governor Corbett’s signature in
February 2012. Act 13 removes municipal zoning of oil and gas operations, weakens
environmental protections under the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, limits physicians’ rights to
disclose gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals that their patients may be
exposed to, and establishes an impact fee on natural gas.

To date, at least sixty seven local governing bodies are known to have either adopted a
resolution or voted to send a letter in support of the lawsuit that aims to overturn the law based on
its unconstitutionality. The opposition to Act 13 spreads out geographically and includes
Marcellus shale regions as well as areas where no drilling is occurring. Since Act 13 guts
municipal rights over all types of natural gas operations – such as drilled gas wells, frack pits, gas
pipelines, and natural gas processing facilities -- the law has a long reach that pulls in every
community, no matter where it is located. Gas wells, frack pits and other gas and oil-related
industrial pollution sources are now pushed into residential districts and right up against day care
centers, schools, and shopping districts and municipalities are not allowed to keep them away.

Resolutions/Letters of Support have been adopted by:
Allegheny County
Allegheny County Council
Ben Avon Borough
Findlay
Forest Hills
Greentree Borough
Jefferson Hills Borough
Mount Lebanon Borough
Monroeville
City of Pittsburgh
Scott Township
South Fayette Township (Party to lawsuit)
West Deer Township
Whitehall Borough
Wilkins Township
Wilkinsburg Borough
Allegheny County Council
Beaver County
Hanover Township
South Heights Borough
Berks County
Alsace Township
Kutztown Borough
Lower Alsace Township
Maidencreek Township
Mount Penn Borough
City of Reading
West Reading Borough
Bucks County
Bridgeton Township
Chalfont Borough
Doylestown Borough
Doylestown Township
Falls Township
Morrisville Borough
Nockamixon Township (Party to lawsuit)
Penndel Borough
Riegelsville Borough
Tinicum Township
Tullytown Borough
Yardley Borough (Party to lawsuit)
Butler County
Buffalo Township
Butler Township
Harmony Borough
Middlesex Township
Chester County
City of Coatesville
Newlin Township
Delaware County
Radnor Township
Yeadon Borough
Fayette County
City of Connellsville
Fayette County Council
Greene County
Gray Township
Lackawanna County
Lackawanna Association of Boroughs
Luzerne County
Black Creek Township
Dallas Township
Luzerne County Council
Sugarloaf Township
Mercer County
Springfield Township
Montgomery County
East Greenville Borough
Upper Moreland Township
Northampton County
City of Bethlehem
Washington County
Cecil Township
East Finley Township
Mount Pleasant Township
Peters Township
Robinson Township
South Strabane Township
Washington Township
Westmoreland County
Ligonier Township
Murrysville
Upper Burrell Township

In addition, a member of the Westmoreland County Council and the West Jefferson School Director in Allegheny County submitted letters of support.

Seven municipalities and Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a legal pleading in Commonwealth Court challenging Act 13. The municipalities are: Township of Robinson, Washington County; Township of Nockamixon, Bucks County; Township of South Fayette, Allegheny County; Peters Township, Washington County; Township of Cecil, Washington County; Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County; and the Borough of Yardley Bucks County.

Act 13 amends the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, preempting municipal zoning of oil and gas development. It also establishes an impact fee on natural gas. The plaintiffs are challenging the new law on the grounds it violates the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions and endangers public health, natural resources, communities and the environment. “The Petition for Review in the Nature of a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief” was filed March 29 in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg. To read the filing: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87252080/Act-13-Challenge

“Act 13 is an unpopular law, and that fact is becoming more known now that so many municipalities are joining in to support the legal challenge. Zoning is the backbone of municipal government and without it, municipalities are disenfranchised,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “These 67 governing bodies are saying loud and clear ‘Don’t take away our local rights to protect our residents’. We fully expect the wave of dissent to grow over the coming weeks as the case moves through the courts. Even the now-infamous ‘South Newark Basin’ in Bucks and Montgomery Counties is not exempt from Act 13, despite some politicians’ attempts to make it seem so,” said Carluccio.

Jordan Yeager Esq. of Curtin & Heefner, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said, “Communities from all across Pennsylvania are joining together and speaking out. They are speaking out to protect their residents, their businesses, their water supplies, their public health, and their local democratic rights. Together, they are sending the message that Act 13 must not stand.”

“We have received many formal Resolutions of municipal support of our legal challenge to Act 13, and many more informal expressions of support,” said Deron Gabriel, South Fayette Twp. Board of Commissioners, Allegheny Co., PA. “In fact, every local elected official I have spoken with has been generally supportive of our position of keeping our local zoning powers in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our residents including the two largest governing bodies in Allegheny County - Allegheny County Council and Pittsburgh City Council. There just isn’t any support for Act 13 at the local and regional level,” concluded Gabriel.

The case was argued in Commonwealth Court on June 6 and the Court is expected to rule in the near future. In April, Senior Judge Keith Quigley issued a preliminary injunction against a portion of Act 13 in response to the plaintiffs’ request, ensuring that zoning ordinances dealing with oil and gas operations remain in effect and are not immediately pre-empted, providing an additional 120 days for municipalities to consider their existing ordinances.

For information on how local governing bodies can express support for the challenge to Act 13: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/act-now/urgent-details.aspx?Id=102
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