PA Supreme Court’s Indecision on Local Regulation of Drilling

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear a four-year-old case over how much leeway local municipalities have in regulating drilling within their borders. Does the court’s refusal to hear the case mean local governments will have more, or less, latitude than they do now? Depends on who you ask.

The drilling industry could challenge even more local governments’ land-use laws now that the state Supreme Court has declined to hear a key case in the statewide controversy, industry officials involved in the case said Monday.

But a state legislator perceives the decision as a victory that upholds local municipalities’ control of drilling sites and conditions.

The court’s pass, which it issued Friday, ends the four-year-old case, industry lawyers said. It affirms a 2010 Commonwealth Court ruling that approved several Fayette County rules for well sites, including bans on having any within the flight path of airport runways or within 200 feet of homes.

Penneco Oil Co., Range Resources and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association filed an appeal of the lower court ruling, hoping the state’s highest court would clarify what rules municipal and county governments can apply to drilling.

Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, a broad gray area remains, making companies even more likely to file legal challenges…*

Seems the only winners as a result of the high court’s indecision are the lawyers who will end up filing new lawsuits to clarify what local governments can and can’t do in regulating drilling.

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Jan 10, 2012) – Court inaction on Fayette rules clouds drilling oversight