PA Problem: Act 13 Zoning Case to be Decided by 6 Supremes, Not 7

trouble brewing signPotential trouble is brewing for Marcellus drillers in Pennsylvania. As MDN has chronicled since early last year, seven towns (and a few individuals) sued PA over a provision in “Act 13” passed in early 2012 which creates uniform statewide standards for oil and gas zoning regulations–regs that supercede and replace local zoning laws related to oil and gas drilling (see Lawsuit Filed: PA Towns Sue State over Marcellus Act 13 Law). A handful of towns in western PA didn’t like the state telling them where a well can and can’t go. They call it a “one size fits all” solution that doesn’t square with realities in different and varying geographies. The state maintains it has all sorts of safeguards built in and the new uniform standards prevent capricious local town boards from interfering with a legitimate and safe activity. Who’s right? It’s a Solomon kind of conundrum.

The towns sued and won–in two lower court cases. The case was appealed to the PA Supreme Court–but Houston, we have a problem. The PA Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last October. One of the seven justices has since been convicted on a minor fundraising offense and removed from office (see PA Supreme Court Resignation Affects Act 13 Zoning Decision). If the court had previously decided the case without a seventh justice, it likely would have resulted in a 3-3 split. The new justice, Correale Stevens, was installed in June. We’ve just learned that he will not participate in the Act 13 case, meaning it will definitely be decided by six justices. Unless one of them changes, a 3-3 decision would mean the lower courts’ decision stands and drilling in some locations in PA will be thrown into chaos, affecting landowners, jobs and the local economy…
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Cincy Paper Targets OH Republicans for Not Supporting High Tax

Retribution: Time to make the brave Republicans in the Ohio House pay for not supporting the socialist concept of “spreading the wealth around” to people who didn’t earn it by supporting a high severance tax on Utica Shale drilling. A new hit piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer tries to do just that–by proclaiming that “big oil & gas” has “pumped” a (measly) $660,000 in campaign contributions to Ohio House legislators, most of them Republican. Implication: They were bought off.

What utter folly…
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JLCNY to Mark 5-Year Moratorium Anniversary at Binghamton Event

The 77,000-member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) will hold at event next Tuesday, July 23 at the Holiday Inn Arena in Binghamton to mark a somber milestone: the five-year anniversary of the shale drilling moratorium in New York State. This is a shout out to drilling supporters in the Southern Tier area of New York to invite you to attend…
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SRWR to Open New Frack Wastewater Plant in Cadiz, OH

Officials from Somerset Regional Water Resources (SRWR), a Pennsylvania-based frack wastewater recycling operator, recently spoke to a meeting of the Cadiz (OH) Business Association about their plans to start up a wastewater recycling facility in the Cadiz (Harrison County, OH) area next month, bringing more than 40 new jobs to the area.

SRWR is based in Tunkhannock, PA. They began operations in 2008 and now have over 120 employees. Begun as a water trucking operation for oil and gas drilling companies, SRWR has expanded to include a full offering of well site services and frack wastewater recycling facilities…
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Interior Sec Jewell Grilled by Congress on New BLM Fracking Rules

It’s no surprise that newly-minted U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is sticking up for federal regulation of fracking as proposed by her agency’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For now, BLM rules–once in effect–will be used to regulate fracking on public lands, mostly found in western U.S. However, the Obama administration has expressed its desire to grow the BLM regulations to include private land too (see Feds ‘Hope’ States will Use BLM Rules for ALL Fracking). Danger Will Robinson!

Testifying before the House Natural Resources committee yesterday, Republicans grilled Jewell about the new BLM regulations. Members of her own party (Democrat) chided her over the BLM’s use of FracFocus.org to report chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid. Jewell’s response was less-than-comforting and (we would argue) a veiled threat that the BLM will dump using FracFocus at some point…
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