Friday, September 14, 2012

City backs local control of shale drilling regulations - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Pittsburgh City Council will file a legal brief next week supporting the Commonwealth Court decision throwing out statewide zoning for Marcellus Shale drilling, which will be weighed by the state Supreme Court next month.

Pittsburgh was not one of the seven municipalities that originally challenged the zoning language in state Act 13, but the nine-member council agreed unanimously to support the challenge before the court, joining some 4,000 other municipalities represented by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.

"We at the local level, suburban, urban or rural, fully appreciate what is at stake here," council President Darlene Harris said in a statement. "For Pittsburgh to have no voice at all on this issue would be a dereliction of our duty as councilpersons to look out for the property rights of all people who live or own property in the city through our zoning code."

Commonwealth Court ruled in July that the state cannot require municipalities to allow natural gas drilling in areas that would conflict with their zoning rules, as several townships had argued, leading to a suit filed against the law in March. The Corbett administration and drilling supporters said the zoning restrictions were necessary to allow the new industry to grow statewide without tripping over duplicative or contradictory local laws.

Attorneys for the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Commission filed a 45-page brief Sept. 4 saying the appellate court "failed to acknowledge and uphold the supreme authority of the Legislature" in making the decision.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the decision Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh.

It was not clear where Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- who has clashed with council on natural gas issues -- stood on the case.

Council's brief is due to be filed by Tuesday. Mrs. Harris said it "is simply about preserving our city's self-determination; our residents should have a say as to whether a strip club, slaughterhouse, garbage dump, cell phone tower or a gas well is allowed to be put next to their homes."

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