At first glance, writes Su, "The impact fee of up to $50,000 per well seems to put wealth from drilling on the Marcellus Shale into citizens’ hands. But gas companies can drill wherever they like, even if local councils vote to keep the wells out of their jurisdictions. “It gives industry the right to tell us how we’re going to plan our townships rather than the other way around,” said David M. Ball, a petitioner in the lawsuit and councilman of Peters Township, Washington County. “What happens when the next industry comes down the line, like the homebuilders’ industry?” Ball asked. “Pretty soon, what does zoning even mean?” Coppola said he receives “hundreds and hundreds of letters” every day from townships and boroughs in support of the suit.
Su notes that last month, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which says it represents 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s land area, passed two resolutions stating opposition to “any legislation that would remove, reduce or inhibit local government authority” or “pre-empt the existing authority of townships to regulate land use.” Ball said, “I’ve personally not heard of one municipality that has said they support the zoning provisions of Act 13.” Whether the Commonwealth Court affirms Act 13 or not, White, Coppola, Milburn and Ball agree that the law will most likely be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “Act 13 eventually is going to be undone,” Coppola said. “It strips away too many rights of individuals. People are just going to go crazy.” (Read more)