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Five municipalities sued the Commonwealth today seeking to halt the implementation of Act 13

Cecil Township, Robinson Township, Peters Township, and Mt. Pleasant Township, all in Washington County, and South Fayette Township, Allegheny County together filed a complaint in Commonwealth Court [add link to Complaint] arguing that Act 13 is unconstitutional. Chief among the issues raised by the municipalities is the explicit requirement that local ordinances “allow for the reasonable development of oil and gas resources”.

According to the municipalities, Act 13’s mandate that certain oil and gas activities must be permitted in certain zoning districts unconstitutionally infringes on a municipality’s authority to regulate land use. Act 13 preempts a municipality from enacting overly-burdensome land use regulations by, for example, requiring zoning ordinances to permit a well site as a “use-by-right” (meaning that the municipality may not subject an application to a hearing or impose additional conditions of approval) in all agricultural and industrial zoning districts and some areas of residential zoning districts. Municipalities may regulate well sites as a “conditional use”, meaning that the local governing body would consider the application during a public hearing and could impose reasonable conditions on an approval, within 500 feet of an existing building . Act 13 permits municipalities to prohibit well pads within 300 feet of an existing building.

Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 13 into law on February 14 and it becomes effective April 14. Municipalities have 120 days from the effective date, until August 13, to bring their ordinances into compliance with the law. If a municipality fails to do so, its ordinances may be challenged before the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission or the Commonwealth Court.