Energy. Environment. Economy.

Corbett declines to discuss details of challenge to Act 13 decision


Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Governor Corbett today declined to discuss details about his administration’s challenge to the state Supreme Court decision on Act 13. The 2012 law made major updates to the rules governing Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry.

Yesterday, attorneys representing the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Commission filed an application asking the court to reconsider its decision. Last month the court struck down portions of the law—including controversial measures restricting the power of local governments to zone oil and gas development.

The administration is now arguing the state Supreme Court lacks the proper jurisdiction to engage in fact-finding.

When asked by witf which facts the court improperly determined, Corbett declined to answer.

“I don’t have that in front of me right now.”

“The long-term ramifications of this really have to be looked at,” he said, referring to the decision.

When asked what those ramifications would be, Corbett wouldn’t elaborate.

“I’m not going to go into them right now.”

The administration’s 11-page application asserts the court made a “series of sweeping factual conclusions” about the constitutionality of Act 13. Attorneys representing the DEP and PUC argue that as an appellate court, the state Supreme Court is not supposed to establish facts.

Here’s the list of facts they cite from the court’s majority opinion:

  • “By any reasonable account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”
  •  “The entirely new legal regimen alters existing expectations of communities and property owners and substantially diminishes natural and esthetic values of the local environment.”
  •  The General Assembly has “sanctioned a direct and harmful degradation of the environmental quality of life in these communities and zoning districts.”
  •  “[T]he outright ban on local regulation of oil and gas operations … propagates serious detrimental and disparate effects on the corpus of the trust.”
  •  Act 13 “permit[s] development with such an immediate, disruptive effect upon how Pennsylvanians live their lives.”
  •  The Court is “constrained to hold that the degradation of the corpus of the trust and the disparate impact on some citizens sanctioned by Section 3304 of Act 13 are incompatible with [Section 27].” [note: the court states here that one of Act 13's zoning sections is incompatible with the Environmental Rights Amendment of the state constitution]

“They’re putting the cart before the horse,” says Joshua Maus of the state Office of General Counsel, referring the state Supreme Court.  ”They are not a fact-finder.”

Lauren Williams is an attorney representing local governments that challenged Act 13′s zoning restrictions. She says the case was never about fact-finding and instead hinged on the constitutionality of the law.

“What they’re arguing right now in terms of the need for a factual hearing, is directly contradicting their contention all along which was that this could be decided as a matter of law.”







  • env121

    Just when you think Corbett couldn’t sink any lower in his blatant display of favoritism of drillers over the health, safety and welfare of the people………KABLAMMMMMMO! He proves us wrong once again.

  • Steve Todd

    As of Feb 11, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported We The People of PA have spent “more than $550,000…to represent the state DEP and the PUC in the lawsuit” against Act 13. I can’t imagine how much more it has cost since then, plus to appeal the Supreme Court ruling. Are We The People getting our money’s worth on this?

  • CitizenSane1

    Act 13 was ruled unconstitutional… as it should have been, by the lower court. Corbett, the PUC, and the DEP appealed that decision and knocked up to the PA Supreme Court, that not only agreed with the lower court’s decision, but took it a step further sighting Article 1, Section 27 of the PA Constitution actually means something! Corbett, his regulatory puppets, and the gas industry lost. Time for them to get over it and stop wasting more taxpayer dollars to attempt to eliminate the rights of municipalities to self-govern and enact local zoning that best serves the people who live in the community. Corbett claims to be a “conservative”. By definition, that means the lowest form of government. It means local control! Act 13 was the most overreaching and un-conservative piece of “ALEC inspired” legislation ever in PA. We, the people, are not going to stand for the liquidation of PA, and our constitutional rights! November 2014 can’t come fast enough, so we can dump this corrupt governor.

  • NorthernTier

    The 2012 Air Emissions Data from Natural Gas Operations inventories were due from operators to the PA DEP on March 1, 2013. Why is it taking so long to release these “facts” about the effect on the air quality of impacted counties/municipalities?

  • paulroden

    This is why I call him “Governor Corporate”, because that is who he really represents and supports, not the Constitution of the Commonwealth of PA or the people of PA. He represents government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations, who fund his campaigns. He is a corporate lacky through and through. So I am not surprised by his appeal of the State Supreme Court decision overthrowing his Act 13. Why have government, regulations or oversight? It only gets in the way of corporate profits. And the “invisible hand of the unregulated free market” is what is best for America, isn’t it?

  • Lisa DeSantis

    Governor Corbett is a clown shoe.

  • NorthernTier

    Is the PA DEP painting itself into a corner? In the Application for Reconsiduration, it states:
    “Thus, this Court issued its own factual findings on appeal, where the trial court made no findings of fact and only one side had presented a modicum of evidence. Fundamental fairness to a co-equal branch of government, as well as adherence to this Court’s precedent and established procedure, mandates that the Commission and the Department be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present evidence …”
    In addition to Case Law and Statutes, the PA DEP cites Other Authorities (environmental issues) in support of the request. But, surprisingly, there was no reference to any “evidence” the PA DEP would release from its own data repository in support of its position.

    Yesterday, the Associated Press published an article relating their experience obtaining information from the PA DEP via the RTK process. It is of course possible that the PA DEP information gathering system is just that. That is, they gather the data but make little attempt to analyze it or enter it in a data base. But it seems untenable to complain about not being permitted to offer evidence that they likely would resist (either explicitly or by delay) releasing to the public.

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