PA Act 13 Zoning Lawsuit Goes to Trial in June

An update on the Act 13 lawsuit filed by seven Pennsylvania municipalities and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network at the end of March (see this MDN story). Act 13 is a set of new drilling rules and regulations adopted by the PA legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in February of this year. Part of the new regs included a statute that says state rules on zoning for oil and gas drilling supersede or override local zoning laws. The seven towns and Riverkeeper sued to stop that portion of the new law and Commonwealth Court Judge Keith Quigley granted a temporary, 120 day injunction (see this MDN story).

The case will now be heard by the full nine-member Commonwealth Court between June 4-8. That’s big news. But there’s even bigger news:

Also, according to an order issued Wednesday, a representative from natural gas trade organizations and companies will be allowed five minutes to state their objections to the suit, which asks that portions of Act 13 be overturned on constitutional grounds.

The industry previously was denied the ability to intervene by Commonwealth Court Judge Keith Quigley.

The court will hear preliminary objections to the suit by the state, and the plaintiffs will seek to have the court decide the constitutional merits of Act 13 without moving to trial.*

The decision to grant industry groups five minutes still seems unfair in MDN’s opinion. As we previously stated (see here), if it’s OK for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an extreme anti-drilling group to be part of the lawsuit against the law, how is it not fair to allow drillers, who are directly affected by the law, to not be part of the defense? While five minutes is better than nothing, it seems to MDN justice and fairness is getting the shaft in this court case. If the judges don’t want drillers as part of the case, they need to toss Riverkeeper from the case as well.

Aren’t the courts supposed to be fair and impartial? Apparently not, when “Big Environmentalism” is involved.

*Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter (May 10, 2012) – Arguments scheduled in Pa. Act 13 lawsuit