Constitution challenge to Act 13's frack anywhere zoning provision went before a panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges on June 6, 2012.
The heart of the argument is the extent of the state's power to tell municipalities where they must allow drilling-related activity, including rigs, waste pits, pipelines and the compressor and processing stations that help move gas from the underground Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania to consumers across the northeastern United States.
Among the objectionable provisions cited by the towns' March 29 lawsuit are requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as operators observe certain buffers.
At one point, President Judge Dan Pellegrini asked a lawyer representing the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission what would happen if the state passes similar laws for every industry it considers an economic engine.
"If you make that argument, pretty soon zoning becomes irrational," Pellegrini said.
Five of the largest natural gas interests spent a total of $1.3 million on lobbying Pennsylvania legislators from January through March 2012 on the Act 13 legislation.
Leading the pack was the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group based in southwestern Pennsylvania. The group spent $978,766 during the first three months of the year trying to influence government, disclosure records showed.
Rounding out the top five were the drilling company Range Resources, $133,766; Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, $111,099; Shell Oil, $102,400 and Spectra Energy Transmission, $48,088, records showed. The four companies and the industry trade group also led the pack on lobbying expenses during the first nine months of 2011.
On January 12, 2012 a letter was sent to Representatives Sam Smith, Mike Turzai, and Brian Ellis from Kathryn Z. Klaber, President – Marcellus Shale Coalition, and Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director – Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania. The letter was also cc’d to Governor Tom Corbett and all House Members.
The letter contained a list entitled “Suggestions for Final Marcellus Shale Legislation”. There were 27 “suggestions”. All but 3 of the suggestions found their way into the bill.
What we have in Pennsylvania is a Republican controlled government dancing to the tune of the Natural Gas Industry. Whatever the Natural Gas Industry wants - they get, and they pay good money for it.
Ironically, for a political party which hammers against "big government", and blindly adheres to Grover Norquist's manta of shrinking goverment "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub", they have expanded the powers of state government and drown local government in the bathtub.
The smallest form of government is the local government of cities and towns. This is where people work, live and send their children to schools. This is where decisions are made to determine the future and growth of each city and town. ACT 13's one-size-fits-all zoning, for a single special interest industry, eliminates the power of self-determination from the people.
(For more in depth look at the Marcellus Shale Coalition read Marcellus Shale Coalition: In the Lobby, for larger views of diagrams and more info click here.)