Rice Drilling Sues North Bethlehem Township Over New Drilling Ordinance

A lawsuit has just been filed in Western PA seeking to invalidate a Township’s new drilling ordinance:

A company wanting to drill Marcellus Shale natural gas wells in North Bethlehem Township is suing the municipality in Washington County Court, claiming its zoning ordinance is unconstitutional and prohibiting the firm from doing business.

Delaware-based Rice Drilling, with local offices in Southpointe, is asking the court for an injunction to declare invalid the township’s new ordinance regulating the oil and gas well industry, court records show.

The company claims the ordinance sets the locations of wells near houses, public buildings and streams in distances beyond the scope of those set in the state Oil and Gas Act. The company also claims the state Department of Environmental Protection oversees the industry, not local municipalities, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.*

The township attorney says the lawsuit is not as alarming as it may seem—that Rice only had 30 days to file a challenge after the new ordinance went into effect—that they are simply reserving the right to challenge the law. The attorney expects Rice to meet with Township representatives to resolve their differences over the new ordinance.

*Observer-Reporter (Apr 7, 2011) – Company files suit over gas ordinance