Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reverses Approval of Gas Well Pad on Narrow Grounds, But Suggests that Municipalities May Permit Unconventional Natural Gas Drilling in any and all Zoning Districts

Institute for Energy Law Oil & Gas E-Report

(by Blaine A. Lucas)

Robinson Township Revisited

The parameters of Pennsylvania local government regulation of the oil and gas industry continue to be refined and left uncertain by the ongoing judicial fallout from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. In Robinson Township, the Court invalidated two sections of Pennsylvania’s updated  Oil and Gas Act (Act 13) limiting the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas operations. The three-Justice plurality decision was based on a reinvigorated interpretation and application of the Article I, Section 27 the Pennsylvania Constitution, commonly known as the Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which states:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

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