January 21, 2018

Model Ordinance Amending a Municipal Zoning Ordinance: Gas And Oil Well Sites


This Model Ordinance was written to assist towns and municipalities in crafting their local zoning ordinances with the correct legal language and information on Pennsylvania local law pertaining to the gas industry and gas and oil drilling. The Model Ordinance was made possible with a grant from the Colcom Foundation to bolster DCS’s zoning assistance program.

The text provides the language needed for Industrial Zoning Districts. The ordinance refers to regulations on several different types of industries across the board, because the courts have so far been more difficult in treating gas-drilling ordinances that single out drilling companies out for harsher treatment.

This model is not challenge-proof, but is practical in the sense that it was created with a comprehensive knowledge and informed by a set of legal instincts as to how far Pennsylvania courts will allow a municipality to go in their effort to change local zoning pertaining to gas drilling. The model includes definitions of gas drilling terms used in the ordinance, subsections on development of gas and oil well sites pertaining to land use, a statement of purposes to establish the policy goals of the given community, conditional uses, easements, compliance standards, and emergency response plans.

*The Model Ordinance was written before the recent legislation was passed in the Pennsylvania Legislature and signed into law by Governor Corbett, which limits local governments from challenging gas industry by changing its zoning. A new course of action is in the works, and DCS is reviewing the law with its attorney and creating a strategy based on the setback to zoning authorities across the state.

Click here to view Model Ordinance