PA Supreme Court Rules on Gorsline Zoning Case – Mixed Decision

Not long after the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling law in 2012, signed into law by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, seven selfish towns sued, claiming they should have the right (via zoning laws) to determine just where an oil and gas well can be located within their borders. The challenge was brought by rabid anti-drillers and appealed all the way to the PA Supreme Court, where unfortunately the antis won (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). What the antis didn’t think about was the fact some towns may decide to exercise their newly-won rights to allow wells, instead of prohibit them. Whoops. Guess they didn’t see that one coming. A town in Lycoming County decided to allow a shale well on property zoned residential/agricultural (i.e. farming country) by using a “conditional use” permit. Anti-drilling Big Green groups, including PennFuture, THE (arrogant) Delaware Riverkeeper, and the Peters Township gang (none of which are from mid-PA where the town is located) sued to deny the town the right to exercise its Act 13 authority to allow a shale well. The case, Brian Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township (Gorsline is an avowed anti-driller), was appealed to the PA Supreme Court and in March 2017 (over a year ago!) the Supremes heard oral arguments (see Gorsline Zoning Case Argued Before PA Supreme Court Justices). Last Friday the Supremes came down from Mt. Olympus to issue their ruling–and they ruled (4-3) against the town and for the antis. However, before you jump to any conclusions and before you believe headlines from Big Green supporters trumpeting their “victory,” you need to know this: the decision potentially makes it harder (not easier) for antis to stop drilling in the future. We’ll explain…

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