Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Strikes Down Zoning and Setback Waiver Provisions Of “Act 13” Oil and Gas Legislation

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A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruling has struck down a cornerstone of Act 13, which set forth that municipalities must adopt uniform zoning provisions for the development of natural gas as a prerequisite to the receipt of funds collected from natural gas well “impact fees.” This recently passed oil and gas legislation was seen by many in the natural gas industry as vital to successful production and midstream activities in the region, because it brought some order to the dizzying patchwork of inconsistent and regularly changing local zoning ordinances throughout the Marcellus region, which had previously led to litigation, as well as added production and development costs. Additionally, the court overturned the Act 13 portions authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to grant a waiver of certain setback requirements from water bodies and wetlands, further complicating natural gas well development issues.

This ruling is extremely important to those involved in the production of the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, including energy producers, utilities, pipeline companies, investors or financers of the natural gas industry, since local zoning and setback issues can have ramifications on the cost, timing, planning and potential feasibility of all phases of natural gas production.

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