In a move that has potential for informing opposition to Beartooth Front drilling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 4-2 yesterday to declare major provisions of the state’s Marcellus Shale drilling law, Act 13, unconstitutional. The key element of the decision overturns the section of the law that allows gas companies to drill anywhere, overriding local zoning laws.
The decision was based on a suit filed by a small number of Pennsylvania townships challenging the law, and signaled a victory for the rights of citizens against corporate interests. It also is an important step in protecting the environment against uncontrolled drilling. Chief Justice Ronald Castille, writing for the majority, indicated possible Court support for future restrictions on drilling when he wrote in the decision that
the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.