Pennsylvania

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Gas industry groups seek to intervene in Act 13 case

A drill rig in Kingsley, Susquehanna County.

MARIE CUSICK/STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

In December, the state Supreme Court ruled that portions of Act 13 were unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania’s three major gas industry trade groups have filed a petition to intervene in the ongoing court battle over the state’s oil and gas law, known as Act 13.

In December, the state Supreme Court struck down portions of the 2012 law that restricted the ability of local governments to zone oil and gas development, but the justices left a number of matters unresolved and sent the case back to the lower Commonwealth Court .

The court is now reviewing, among other things, whether the rest of Act 13 can stand without the sections that were struck down.

The case is primarily between local governments who challenged the law and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, attorneys representing the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association filed a petition today arguing they should also be part of the case.

“Because key provisions of Act 13 were struck down, there are significant questions regarding the certainty of investments and ability for the natural gas industry to develop across the Commonwealth that necessitated our motion to intervene,” says Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director of API’s Pennsylvania’s division.

The petition points out that oil and gas operators have paid over $400 million so far in Act 13 impact fees. The attorneys argue the industry has a “distinct and unique interest” in whether the court upholds the fee.

“This Court’s decision will materially affect the legal landscape for the oil and gas industry,” they write. “No current party to this case must actually plan for, finance, and comply with Act 13′s extensive list of regulatory requirements.”

Jordan Yeager is an attorney who represents local governments who challenged Act 13. He says he would be be surprised if the court allows the trade groups to be a party to the case.

“It’s really a lot of lawyering,” he says. “The industry tried this before, and the court said no. There are no new claims in the case. They don’t get to revisit questions the court has already decided.”

In January, the Corbett administration asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, but the court recently denied the request.

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