Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Four Townships Say They’re Still Owed Impact Fee Money

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Robinson Township Municipal building in Washington County. Robinson Township is a plaintiff in a case to overturn local zoning restrictions in Act 13. The township's share of the impact fee has been withheld.

Four Pennsylvania townships that have had their impact fee payments withheld say the Public Utility Commission has no right to deny them the money authorized by the state’s new drilling law. Those same four municipalities have sued to have aspects of the new law, Act 13, overturned. A state appeals court ruled in their favor, saying the provision of Act 13 that denies local municipalities from passing their own zoning rules regarding drilling activity, is unconstitutional. The state has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The New York Times has more:

The townships — Cecil, Robinson, South Fayette and Mount Pleasant — are scheduled to receive a combined $986,000 that could be used for projects like road repair, sewer construction or inspection of gas facilities.

But the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which administers the impact fee, said it was withholding payment to the townships until it resolved five “requests for review” that were filed by four local landowners and by Range Resources, a Texas drilling company that has been active in Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Kocher, a commission spokeswoman, said the payments were not being held because of the legal case.

“This has nothing to do with the pending court proceedings but rather the proceedings before the P.U.C. where local residents and producers have requested a review of the municipalities’ ordinances,” Ms. Kocher wrote in an e-mail.

Under the new drilling law, the PUC is charged with deciding whether or not local zoning ordinances comply with state law. If not, then impact fee money can be withheld.

Comments

  • grla

    Pardon me, but if the portion of the law requiring the towns to change their zoning laws has been found unconstitutional, how can the state even hear a challenge to the disbursement of the towns’ share of the drilling impact fees when the challenge is based on the towns’ failure to change their zoning laws so as to comply with the very requirement that was declared unconstitutional? If a law is unconstitutional, it cannot be enforced by the state or by anyone else and there would appear to be no legal basis for this challenge. Further, by challenging the towns’ rights to immediately receive their respective shares of the fund on the grounds that the towns have failed to comply with an unconstitutional (and hence unenforceable) provision of the law, aren’t the challengers engaging in an abuse of process that might actually entitle the towns to recover damages from the challengers? When you consider that the towns have thus far not even denied any drilling permits, this whole situation just appears to be a case of the drilling industry playing hardball in an attempt to destroy everyone who doesn’t want to give them complete control over everyone and everything in sight.

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