PA Doctor’s Act 13 Lawsuit Tossed Out, Judge Says No “Standing”

Last Wednesday a Pennsylvania federal judge ruled against a doctor who sued the state over it’s new Act 13 law (passed in 2012). The new law requires doctors to sign a confidentiality agreement before discussing chemicals workers may have been exposed to as part of the drilling (specifically fracking) process in shale drilling.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo dismissed the lawsuit filed by Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez saying he hadn’t proven he had been harmed by the law (i.e., no “standing”)…
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Cowardly “Me Too” Towns Support Act 13 Lawsuit in 11th Hour

Pennsylvania’s Act 13 shale drilling law, passed earlier this year, is facing a stiff legal challenge to a key provision in the law. The only part of the law challenged in court is the part replacing the ability of local municipalities to enact zoning ordinances to control where, and if, drilling happens within their borders. Act 13 substitutes a common set of zoning restrictions—drilling must be at least X feet from water wells, schools, etc. Seven brave townships in PA sued to have that provision overturned. MDN says “brave” not because we necessarily support their effort, but in contrast to the cowardly towns and cities and organizations who haven’t put up their own money and time but instead have issued press releases to support the seven who have.

Who are the cowardly towns and organizations? Let’s name some names, shall we?

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PA Lawyers in Act 13 Lawsuit Say State Legislature has “Supreme Authority”

A quick update on the Act 13 lawsuit before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Lawyers for the state, on behalf of the governor, the Dept. of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission, filed a 45-page brief yesterday defending the law. The seven towns suing the state to overturn the zoning portions of Act 13 (the part that disallows local municipal control over the siting of drilling and compressor plants, etc.) will file their brief later this month.

Among the arguments made by the state in defending the zoning portion of Act 13:

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PA Supreme Court Rules Industry Can’t Join Act 13 Lawsuit

Last Friday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a request by the Marcellus Shale drilling industry to participate in the lawsuit brought by seven towns, a few individuals and “a non-profit organization” against the new Act 13 drilling law in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit seeks to overturn a portion of Act 13, the part that substitutes statewide zoning regulations for local zoning regulations when it comes to the oil and gas drilling industry.

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PA Commonwealth Court Hears Arguments in Act 13 Lawsuit

Arguments in the lawsuit brought by seven Pennsylvania townships and a handful of individuals against the state over newly passed drilling legislation known as Act 13 were heard in PA Commonwealth Court yesterday in Harrisburg. The towns are suing to overturn a portion of the Act 13 law which eliminates most of zoning rights of PA towns when it comes to zoning oil and gas drilling (see this MDN story for background).

So how did it go? Depends on who you ask.

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Yet Another PA Township “Supports” Act 13 Lawsuit

Wednesday night, Scott Township, PA commissioners unanimously voted to pass a resolution showing symbolic (but no real) support for the PA townships that have sued the State of Pennsylvania over provisions in the new Act 13 Marcellus drilling law. The lawsuit takes exception to state rules replacing local zoning laws that control oil and gas drilling.

Scott is just the latest municipality, in addition to Pittsburgh, Tullytown, Wilkinson, Luzerne, Buffalo, Hanover and other municipalities who have also expressed support, but refuse to actually join the lawsuit (see this MDN story).

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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:

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PA Act 13 Lawsuit and its “Supporters”

The Pittsburgh newspapers want us to believe there is a huge surge of support behind a lawsuit recently filed against what is known as Act 13—a new law passed just a few months ago in Pennsylvania that updates Marcellus oil and gas drilling rules in the state. Although the law brought much-needed new regulations to the Commonwealth, it also contained two measures that have particularly irked those who oppose drilling: an impact fee instead of a severance tax, and preemption of local oil and gas zoning ordinances with a “one size fits all” set of ordinances from the state. MDN will not recount the arguments for and against, you can read them by doing a search for “Act 13 lawsuit” in our search box (upper right corner).

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PA Drillers, Industry Groups File to Join Act 13 Lawsuit

The oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania is not sitting on the sidelines idly while a group of municipalities attempts to temporarily halt, and eventually overturn the new Act 13 drilling legislation passed earlier this year. Seven municipalities along with an enviro-leftist group and a doctor are suing the state to stop Act 13 (see this MDN story for background, and this guest post from one of the litigants).

The Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association and the Marcellus Shale Coalition have filed a petition seeking to join the lawsuit—on the other side, trying to stop the lawsuit by the municipalities.

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Pittsburgh Cheerleads (but doesn’t join) Act 13 Lawsuit

Pittsburgh City Council, long-time opponents of the Marcellus Shale drilling industry, passed a resolution called a “Will of Council” yesterday supporting the lawsuit filed by seven municipalities, the Delaware Riverkeepers and others against the State of Pennsylvania’s newly adopted Act 13 law. The Act 13 law replaces local zoning ordinances with a state ordinance when it comes to oil and gas drilling (see this MDN article about the lawsuit). Council President Darlene Harris sponsored the measure and all nine city council members signed it. A full copy of the resolution and a letter signed by all council members is embedded below.

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Guest Post: Peters Twp Responds to MDN on Act 13 Lawsuit

Last week, MDN wrote an article about the just-filed lawsuit by a group of Pennsylvania townships seeking to strike down provisions in a new PA law referred to as Act 13 (see this MDN story). Act 13 preempts local zoning ordinances that prohibit or regulate oil and gas drilling and replaces those ordinances with a set of rules from the state. In essence, Act 13 substitutes the state’s “one size fits all” zoning ordinance for local zoning ordinances. MDN’s comment at the end of that article was that in examining some of the attachments to the filed lawsuit it seems to MDN that anti-drillers are the ones driving the lawsuit.

David Ball, a council member from Peters Township (Washington County), PA—one of the towns filing the lawsuit—emailed MDN to challenge our view and assessment that he and others filing the lawsuit are anti-drilling, and to further explain their reasons for the lawsuit. MDN asked permission to publish his comments and he accepted. This is not the very first, but perhaps the second or third guest post on MDN. We are happy (from time to time) to offer guest posts that disagree with our own views if that post is courteous, serious and advances the discussion. This one does and we thank Mr. Ball for taking the time to write.

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Federal Court Tosses Out Lawsuit by Dr. in PA Act 13 Law – Again

The end of a loooong chapter in lawsuits over Pennsylvania’s Act 13 drilling law came earlier this week when a federal appeals court ruled that no, Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez, a nephrologist from Dallas in Luzerne County, PA does NOT have “standing” to claim Act 13 applies some sort of medical “gag rule” that doesn’t allow doctors access to information they need to treat their patients. Dr. Rodriguez, along with seven selfish towns, sued to overturn Act 13. The towns didn’t like being told they couldn’t zone drilling out of existence within their borders, and the doctor didn’t like being told he couldn’t blab drillers’ trade secrets all over the place. So it went to PA’s Supreme Court and they ruled in favor of the towns, but sent parts of the lawsuit back to a lower court, including the doctor’s portion (see Act 13 Goes Back to Lower Court, Disturbing Comments from Judge). The case has now been tossed out no less than three times in federal court. Hopefully this third time is the charm…
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Federal Court Dismisses Doctor Lawsuit re Act 13 “Gag Rule”

The lawsuit brought by seven selfish towns against Pennsylvania’s Act 13 drilling law has had more twists and turns than a back road in the Pocono Mountains. The litigious towns, plus a doctor, sued over various provisions in the Act 13 law. The towns didn’t like being told they couldn’t zone drilling out of existence within their borders, and the doctor didn’t like being told he couldn’t blab drillers’ trade secrets all over the place. So it went to PA’s Supreme Court and they ruled in favor of the towns, but sent parts of the lawsuit back to a lower court, including the doctor’s portion (see Act 13 Goes Back to Lower Court, Disturbing Comments from Judge). A second lawsuit was filed by a different doctor along the same lines (so-called “gag rule”)…
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Act 13 Case Goes Back to Court, Drillers Petition to Join Lawsuit

The Marcellus Shale drilling industry in Pennsylvania is trying to make some lemonade from the truckload of lemons handed to them by the PA Supreme Court’s ill-fated decision to let seven selfish townships gut the state’s Act 13 drilling law passed in 2012. We’ve covered the issue extensively (see a list of MDN’s Act 13 articles here). Perhaps the most egregious and outrageous miscarriage of justice in the case is that the drilling industry, which is directly affected by the case, was never allowed to join the case. The courts said they didn’t have “standing”–and yet those same courts allowed the virulently anti-drilling Delaware Riverkeeper Network to be party to the case. Simply boggles the mind.

The PA Supreme’s in their “wisdom,” decided the zoning portions of the case and sent the rest of the case back to a lower court so they could finish gutting the Act 13 law. As MDN previously reported exactly a month ago, the drilling industry has, once again, respectfully requested they be allowed to join the case now that it’s in the home stretch (see Drillers Petition PA Court (Again) to Participate in Act 13 Case). While the drilling industry can’t undo what has been done by the Supreme Court, it is clear that they believe they can lessen the damage done if they win certain arguments in lower court–arguments like affirming the Public Utility Commission’s authority to review whether a zoning ordinance crosses the line and preempts state oil and gas law. In other words, the seven selfish towns may not have gotten their own selfish way after all–not entirely. The hearing on whether to allow the industry to join what’s left of the lawsuit is today…
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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:

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