Judge Tells PA Drillers They Can’t Join Act 13 Lawsuit

At the end of March, seven Pennsylvania municipalities along with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a handful of individuals filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania over a newly enacted Marcellus drilling law called Act 13 (see this MDN story). The lawsuit specifically targets a measure in the new law that supersedes local zoning of oil and gas drilling with state-mandated rules. The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, the Marcellus Shale Coalition and some state lawmakers filed to join the lawsuit on the side of the state, to help defend the new legislation (see this MDN story).

On Friday, the judge in the case denied the application to join the lawsuit:

A Commonwealth Court judge ruled Friday the gas industry and state lawmakers cannot intervene in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Act 13, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

In a 13-page decision, Senior Judge Keith Quigley said the suit hinges on the constitutionality of the law and "the industry’s interests … have no bearing on that determination."

Those who were seeking to be included in the suit’s arguments include the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and the Marcellus Shale Coalition – both industry trade groups – MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources, Penneco Oil Co., Chesapeake Appalachian, state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, and Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the Marcellus Shale Coalition said, "We are disappointed by today’s decision and are currently reviewing potential next steps. We remain steadfast in our commitment to responsibly develop clean-burning, job-creating natural gas resources for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians."*

So, it’s OK for Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an extreme anti-drilling group, to sue the state, but the people affected by that lawsuit can’t join the suit to defend themselves? There’s justice for you. If the people affected by the law have no say in the matter, then the judge should, at a minimum, toss Delaware Riverkeeper from from the lawsuit too. Sauce for the goose…

*Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter (Apr 21, 2012) – Judge: No say for drillers in Act 13 suit