The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down provisions of the state's Oil and Gas Act that stripped municipalities of the power to determine where natural gas drilling activity could occur in their boundaries.
The long-awaited decision is a blow to a 2012 law known as Act 13 that was promoted by Gov. Corbett and the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry as a means to create a uniform statewide legal guide for fossil fuel development.
By a 4-to-2 vote, the court ruled the zoning provisions in the law were unconstitutional, though the court disagreed on the grounds for striking down the law.
"The bottom line is that the majority of the court agreed that Act 13 is unconstitutional, and that local governments can zone oil and gas drilling like they do other activities," said Jordan B. Yeager, a Doylestown environmental lawyer who had argued the case on behalf of several municipalities.
The ruling represented a defeat for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the industry trade group.
"Although we will continue to collaborate with communities across the commonwealth, today's decision is a disappointment and represents a missed opportunity to establish a standard set of rules governing the responsible development and operation of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania," said Dave Spigelmyer, the coalition's president.