Act 13 Litigation Update: Judge Puts A Hold on Portions of Law that Would Eviscerate Local Control

Yesterday, Senior Judge Keith Quigley issued an order that prevents those portions of Pennsylvania's new Act 13 eviscerating local zoning authority from taking effect as originally scheduled under the Act.   As previously blogged about, Act 13 is a new Pennsylvania law which represents a major blow to Pennsylvania municipalities – forcing towns to accept fracking activities as close as 300 feet from a home, a school, or a hospital.

 Specifically, the Judge's order does the following:

  • It prevents Act 13 from immediately invalidating or pre-empting existing municipal zoning ordinances when the Act takes effect on April 14.  According to the Court, “preexisting ordinances must remain in effect until or unless challenged pursuant to Act 13 and are found to be invalid.”
  • It gives municipalities another 120 days to make amendments to existing ordinances in order to bring them in compliance with Act 13.  Before, municipalities had only 120 days before local ordinances would be challengeable pursuant to Act 13.  They now have a total of 240 days.

The judge’s order was issued in response to a motion by lawyers for seven municipalities, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and a Pennsylvania physician who are challenging the Act.

To be clear, this order does not repeal the Act, nor does it prevent other significant portions of the Act from taking effect on April 14, such as those relating to the collection of an oil and gas impact fee.  What the order does do is give the towns the opportunity to challenge the law without the fear that their neighborhoods will be overrun with frack wells and compressor stations while they are stuck in court.  Furthermore, it gives all Pennsylvania municipalities the much needed time to modify their ordinances so to provide the maximum amount of protection from gas drilling allowable under Act 13 in the event that the law is eventually upheld.

Yesterday’s injunction is a small but important victory that allows some breathing room for the courts to do their job and for municipalities to best protect their citizens!

(To see the Delaware Riverkeeper Network press release on the Injunction click here).