The PA Supreme Court Wednesday issued a decision following up on its 2013 Robinson decision on provisions in the Act 13 drilling law finding--
-- Chemical Disclosures: Provisions requiring health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement before drilling companies would disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations violates constitutional provisions related to enactment of special laws and are unconstitutional (page 53). Hydraulic fracking fluid chemicals are, however, disclosed to DEP and FracFocus, but trade secret or confidential formulas are protected from further disclosure;-- Eminent Domain For Gas Storage: Provisions of Act 13 giving authority to private companies to use eminent domain for the purpose of creating natural gas storage facilities is unconstitutional (page 78). These provisions in Act 13 were carried over from the Oil and Gas Act in place since 1984;
-- Local Ordinances: Affirmed the Robinson decision ruling declaring provisions of Act 13 which prohibited local governments from regulating drilling operations as unconstitutional (page 51). In addition, the provisions related to Public Utility Commission review of local ordinances remains enjoined; and
-- Single Subject Rule: The provisions of Act 13 do not violate the single subject rule for legislative enactments (page 50).
Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, issued the following statement Thursday on the PA Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of Act 13 drilling law—
“I applaud the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to strike down many of the provisions from Act 13 that usurped too much responsibility from local governments and prohibited healthcare professionals from having access the pertinent information related to chemicals used in the drilling process.
"The General Assembly, with the passage of Act 13, squandered an important opportunity to enact a responsible natural gas development policy that should include a modest severance tax and sensible environmental protections that enable the natural gas industry to grow in Pennsylvania while vigorously protecting our residents’ rights to clean air and water.
“With this ruling, it is my hope that the legislature will come together to take the necessary action to craft a more balanced law that supports the growth and success of the gas industry without compromising health and safety.”
The Public Utility Commission Friday issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s PA Supreme Court ruling involving portions of the Act 13 drilling law:
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that sections of Act 13 related to PUC review of local zoning ordinances regulating oil and gas operations are no longer valid. The PUC has reviewed the Court's ruling and accepts the decision without reservation.
“As a result of this decision, the PUC will continue to carry out its statutory obligation under Act 13 to collect and distribute unconventional gas well Impact Fees.
“The PUC has always sought to be an independent and unbiased agency, focused on ensuring safe and reliable utility service while also safeguarding the public interest,” said Commission Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “The Court has spoken very clearly on this matter and the Commission will continue to focus on its key responsibility under Act 13, which is the collection of Impact Fees and the distribution of those funds to counties and municipalities across Pennsylvania.”
For more information on the PUC’s role in implementing the drilling law, visit the PUC’s Act 13 Impact Fee webpage.A copy of the decision is available online.
Editorial: Court Affirms Public Interest In Drilling Law Ruling
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