On February 19, 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that municipalities have the authority to restrict gas drilling through local zoning ordinances (Huntley and Huntley v. Borough Council of the Borough of Oakmont, et al Pa. Supreme Ct. 2009). Although the state’s Oil and Gas Act precludes local ordinances that pertain to technical features of drilling operations, local municipalities retain their planning prerogatives and their right to determine appropriate uses for zoning districts.
As the gas extraction industry ramps up its operations across the state of Pennsylvania and the environmental consequences become more apparent, the issue of zoning comes up in many local debates. The industry line, brazenly ignoring the Supreme Court decision of 2009, is that the state’s Oil and Gas Act preempts local zoning. Through their attorneys and PR spokespersons, the powerful oil and gas industry has successfully intimidated many local townships and municipalities, particularly smaller ones with limited resources.
The purpose of this project is to provide assistance to municipalities and townships to craft language in their zoning regulations that restrict gas drilling in order to protect the public health and safety of their residents. Legal advice will be made available to communities committed to adopting these zoning regulations. Educational materials, including a printed brochure as well as a blog, will also be made available that describe the case law and statues in Pennsylvania in simple terms that are easy for people to understand.