As reported in the March edition of The Shale Play Today
, seven Pennsylvania municipalities filed suit in the Commonwealth Court on March 29, 2012, challenging the provision of Act 13 providing that state law preempts the local regulation of natural gas drilling by municipalities and townships. After an initial hearing on the lawsuit on April 11, 2012, Commonwealth Court Judge Keith Quigley ordered a 120-day stay
of the enforcement of the provision regarding local regulation of natural gas drilling. The Court held that, to the extent that Chapter 33 of Act 13 may be interpreted to immediately preempt pre-existing local ordinances, a preliminary injunction was issued to prevent enactment of that provision of Act 13 pending further order of Court.
Judge Quigley also extended the effective date of Section 3309 of Act 13 by 120 days, as local governments that had enacted a local ordinance relating to oil and gas operations prior to the effective date of Section 3309 were to have 120 days from the effective date of the legislation (April 14, 2012) to review and amend their ordinances in order to comply with this chapter, but the Court felt that this was not an adequate period of time. While Judge Quigley effectively created a 240-day period for local governments to analyze their ordinances for compliance, any such revisions will await Judge Quigley's determination on the merits of the lawsuit. Regardless of how Judge Quigley decides, it is a near certainty that his decision will then be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
By further Order dated April 20, 2012, Judge Quigley denied petitions to intervene
in the case filed by PIOGA, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, MarkWest, Penneco and Chesapeake, and denied a similar petition to intervene in the case filed by Senator Joseph Scarnati and Representative Samuel Smith.