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Alert: Commonwealth Court Upholds Validity of Ordinance Allowing Shale Gas Drilling in All Zoning Districts

Court Refuses to Adopt a “One Size Fits All” Approach that Would Prohibit Municipalities from Permitting Shale Drilling in Rural Residential and Agricultural Zoning Districts

On October 26, 2018, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court published an en banc opinion in Frederick v. Allegheny Township Zoning Hearing Board, et al., No. 2295 C.D. 2015, 2018 WL 5303462 (Pa. Cmwlth. Oct. 26, 2018) rejecting a challenge to the validity of the Allegheny Township, Westmoreland County (Township) zoning ordinance.  The Court addressed the contention of oil and gas industry opponents that an unconventional natural gas well pad can only be permitted in an industrial zoning district.  After reviewing the detailed record developed in the substantive validity challenge decided by the Township Zoning Hearing Board (Board) and addressing recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions on shale gas drilling, the Court, in a 5-2 decision, rejected this “one size fits all” proposition.  It found that state law empowers municipalities to determine where well sites are appropriate and compatible with other land uses within their boundaries.

Please read more about this decision in this Alert.