Municipalities defend Pa. Supreme Court ruling on Act 13

  • Katie Colaneri

A group of municipalities that challenged the state’s oil and gas law, Act 13, are asking the Supreme Court to deny a request by the Corbett administration to reconsider its ruling.
In a response filed Thursday, the municipalities say the court determined that the section of Act 13 allowing the state to preempt local zoning rules was unconstitutional “on its face,” or “based on the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution” and not on facts.
The court found in its Dec. 19 ruling that the provision violated the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment which guarantees clean air, pure water and environmental protection for all generations of Pennsylvanians.
On Jan. 2, the Corbett administration asked the Supreme Court to reconsider, arguing the court made a “series of sweeping factual conclusions” about Act 13’s constitutionality.
In an interview with Radio Pennsylvania’s Ask the Governor earlier this week, Corbett said an appellate court like the state Supreme Court is not allowed to establish facts.
“I think the Chief Justice in his opinion was absolutely wrong to do that,” Corbett said. “He should have asked for more facts. He should have asked the court below to make more determination.”

“I think it’s a terrible decision. And if the Chief Justice were right here, I’d tell him that right now.”
Attorneys for the administration want the Supreme Court to allow them to reargue the case based on facts before the Commonwealth Court, as the lower court considers whether the rest of Act 13 will stand without the provisions that were struck down.
Among the facts the administration disputes is the court’s assertion that Marcellus Shale development “will produce a detrimental effect on the environment… perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”
In their filing, the municipalities say neither appellate court “required factual findings to conclude that statutory language allowing heavy industrial activity next to homes, schools and sensitive natural resources without consideration of local conditions” violated the state constitution.
Chief Justice Ron Castille, who wrote the plurality opinion, will consider the filings of both sides and make a recommendation. Then, the justices will vote on whether or not to reconsider the ruling.
You can read their response here:

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