Marcellus Shale gas - the Municipal Role

February 10, 2012

Municipalities will lose much of their power to limit oil and gas drilling under the new Oil and Gas Act, PennFuture staff attorney Mark Szybist told a packed room of Monroe County lawyers, municipal officials and environmental activists.

Szybist spoke before the Monroe County Bar Association, at the invitation of the Brodhead Watershed Association, days after Pennsylvania’s elected officials Mark Szygist, Pennfuture attorney, outlined changes in the law that put power over gas drilling almost exclusively in state handspassed House Bill 1950, which accommodates gas drilling interests pursuing Marcellus Shale gas.

The new law, Szybist said, “is a game changer

for what municipalities can do to regulate land development associated with oil and gas activities.”


Mark Szygist, Pennfuture attorney, outlined changes in the law that put power over gas drilling almost exclusively in state hands

Under the older law, municipalities at least had the power to restrict the location of oil and gas activities. Now, state law will preempt municipalities in virtually every aspect of oil and gas operations, including where they can happen, how far away from existing buildings and streams it can be, and similar zoning-type issues. Municipalities can’t even regulate hours of operation, as they can for other industries and construction jobs. Nor can they restrict or regulate seismic testing, well siting, restoration of well sites, or anything to do with pipelines, gas compression stations or gas processing plants.

All those duties are now going to be handled by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The state Public Utilities Commission, meanwhile, has been designated a quasi-judicial agency and will handle complaints from gas drillers about municipal laws. If the PUC finds that an ordinance violates the
Oil and Gas Act, the municipality will be ineligible to receive gas impact fees.

Municipalities will also have to have zoning that allows oil and gas drilling to take place in almost all every district.

BWA cosponsored a standing-room only presentation on Pennsylvania's new oil and gas law on Feb. 10

State Rep. Mario Scavello (R-176) voted for the new law. At the meeting he said he believes the law’s expansion of setbacks from streams and other features makes it an improvement. Szybist pointed out that while the setbacks are greater, the law makes provision for DEP to liberally grant variances to those

State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-189) and State Rep. Michael Pieper (R-139) also voted for the new law. State Rep. Mike Carroll (D-118) voted against it.

Six state senators have a piece of one or more Pocono watersheds. Lisa Baker (R-20), John P. Blake (D- 22) Lisa M. Boscola (D-18) and John T. Yudichak (D-14) voted against it. Patrick M. Browne (R-16) and David G. Argall (R-29) voted for it.

Details of the effects of the new law are available on the PennFuture Web site.



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P.O. Box 339 Henryville, PA 18332 - Phone: (570) 839-1120