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Act 13 Litigation Update: Waiting is the Hardest Part

By Jordan Yeager

Nockamixon Township Solicitor

Many area residents spent much of last year following the Act 13 case.  To recap, Nockamixon Township and a handful of other municipalities from around the state have been fighting to win back the ability to apply local zoning rules to oil and gas operations, just like all other land uses.  The General Assembly and Governor Corbett removed local zoning authority via Act 13 of 2012.  The Township has also challenged a provision that would make it mandatory for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to grant waivers from setback requirements for wellsites near streams. 


In July 2012, the Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the Township, declaring Act 13’s zoning provisions and mandatory waivers of stream setback requirements unconstitutional.  The Governor and other state agencies appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which heard oral argument in October 2012.  At the time this was written, the Township is still waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court.  


To receive a favorable verdict, the Township only needs a tie vote (at the very least) as it would mean lower court’s decision remains in place.  Until recently, a 3-3 decision would be a victory for the Township because there were only 6 justices on the Court.  However, with the resignation of former Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the Supreme Court is about to be joined by Superior Court Judge Correale Stevens, who has been confirmed as the Court’s seventh justice.


The impact of these changes on any decision in the Township’s case is unclear.  The Court could choose to hear re-argument or move forward without re-argument.  Much is speculation at this time, and so we continue to wait to see what will happen.



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