14 Reasons to Oppose HB 1950 and SB 1100
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) Statement on the Passage of Legislation (Act 13 of 2012)
- Local Controls are Gutted:
The currently proposed Bill eviscerates municipal control over all meaningful aspects of natural gas development and operations through changes to the PA Oil and Gas Act that establish statewide requirements for local zoning ordinances. This “cookie-cutter” type approach is completely inappropriate when economic and environmental conditions vary so widely among municipalities across the Commonwealth.
- Local Control is Case Law:
The PA Supreme Court case of Huntley & Huntley v. Borough of Oakmont (February 2009) http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-122-2008mo.pdf establishes that local officials have the right to regulate the location of gas drilling and wells via zoning where the intent is to promote community development objectives like neighborhood preservation and community character.
- PSATS Opposes the Bills:
Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors strongly opposes preempting local control of zoning. David M. Sanko, Executive Director in an open letter states "Pennsylvania is too large and diverse for a one size fits all solution." For the full letter visit http://www.psats.org/newsdetail.php?id=83
- Local Input is Healthy:
Local government is the bedrock of our democracy and local input is essential to real and sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Our right to self-govern is one of our fundamental freedoms and rights that citizens of the United States have fought and died for are on the verge of being lost at the request of one industry. We must insure that the people affected by governing decisions be the ones who make those decisions.
- Loss of Predictability and Local Growth:
By allowing an industry that files no long-term plan with the local planning commission, we will inevitably see land-use conflicts and local development will be hampered by the unfettered invasion of this industry. Imagine that the long-term plan of a community planned for a shopping plaza or a park. It a processing plant was located on the adjacent plot, the plan could not more forward as planned, essentially trumping the democratically approved plan on the community.
- Fast Track for Gas:
Reviews by towns of applications would be put on an unreasonable fast track and the municipality would have inadequate time to review PADEP documents.
- Drilling, Fracking and Gas-related Operations and Infrastructure can Go Everywhere:
Towns will lose their ability to plan and control location of wells and other rights they now are vested with under the Municipalities Planning Code, such as whether a gas well can be drilled next to a school, day care center, or a home, and to determine the most publicly beneficial use of land. Towns will be required to allow ALL aspects of broadly defined “oil and gas operations” in ALL districts, including residential zones and in areas that contain historic, cultural and important natural and community resources—this includes compressor stations, impoundments that hold chemicals and contaminated flowback fluids, and natural gas processing plants. This is a special favor just for the oil and gas industry; every other business in Pennsylvania would still need to follow zoning requirements designed to protect land values, health, and communities. Do we really need drilling on every square inch on the commonwealth?
- Towns Cannot Control Harmful Local Effects to Residents:
The municipality will not be able to exert land use authority over specific features that have substantial local impact and are applied routinely to industrial operations through well-established municipal authority. This includes aspects of gas development designed to protect health and safety, like fencing, lighting, setbacks, noise, and hours of operation; even overweight vehicle route controls would be curtailed.
- The State can Sanction a Town by Withholding Impact Fees if they don’t Comply:
The State (represented by the Attorney General) will be able to review and pass judgment on local ordinances related to gas and oil operations and can deny a municipality access to proposed impact fees if the town does not comply with the State’s opinion.
- Towns will Face New Lawsuits, at Taxpayer Expense:
Oil and gas operators and those who lease mineral rights would be given the ability to force a state review of a municipality’s ordinance and private parties (such as a gas operator) and the Attorney General would be able to sue to overturn an ordinance. Under certain circumstances, they can even collect legal fees from the municipality.
- Setbacks are Weakened:
The definition of a waterway, from which a setback is measured, is weakened, eliminating natural springs, lakes, and any waterbody other than a “solid blue-lined stream” (a definition in U.S. Geological Survey maps). Even these limited setbacks could be waived by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) under certain circumstances.
- Towns are Denied the Right to Fight:
The municipality would have no right to appeal the State’s decision about a well permit or other gas development permit that is granted by PADEP.
- The Legal and Regulatory Waters are Muddled:
In several crucial areas of regulation, the process and substance of municipal authority are thrown into uncertainty. For example, municipalities are given an “advisory” role in the permitting process but cannot legally challenge a PADEP permit; how the municipality’s advice would be considered is left unclear.
- The Law is Being Made like Sausage Today:
In other words, it’s behind closed doors and not pretty. SB1100 and HB1950 are now being considered as one Bill, HB1950; members of the PA Legislature are negotiating a reconciliation of the Senate and House versions of the Bill today in Harrisburg , behind closed doors.