PA Supreme Court Resignation Affects Act 13 Zoning Decision

Justice Joan Orie Melvin Landowners and drillers have been waiting since last year for the results of a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Early last year the PA legislature passed the most sweeping new oil and gas drilling regulations in decades, called Act 13. Part of Act 13 replaces a crazy quilt patchwork of local zoning regulations with a set of uniform state zoning regulations. Towns didn’t like being told they can no longer fiddle with where a well can and can’t be drilled in their borders, so just over one year ago they sued (see Lawsuit Filed: PA Towns Sue State over Marcellus Act 13 Law).

Lower courts ruled in favor of the towns, striking down the zoning provisions of Act 13. The state appealed (and expedited) the rulings all the way to the state Supreme Court. The Supremes heard arguments in October (see PA Supreme Court Hears Testimony on Act 13 Zoning). Since then? We’ve waited for their decision on this vitally important case. Now we have a new wrinkle. One of the Supreme Court justices, Joan Orie Melvin, is being removed from office following conviction for a minor offense (she used state staffers and office space to assist her campaign for the high court). That leaves six justices, and a 3-3 decision is no good, and a real possibility…

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