Rep. Jesse White hails landmark Supreme Court Act 13 ruling upholding local communities and Constitutional environmental rights as ‘historic victory’
CECIL, Dec. 19 – State Rep. Jesse White, D-Washington/Allegheny/Beaver, released the following statement on today’s landmark ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding Act 13, which upholds and expands the Commonwealth Court’s July 2012 decision to strike down sections of the Pennsylvania gas drilling law taking away local zoning rights as unconstitutional.
In making its ruling, the Supreme Court relied upon Article 1, Sec. 27 of the PA Constitution which guarantees the right of clean air and water for Pennsylvanians, as well as the violation of substantive due process rights stemming from various provisions of Act 13, including the provision superseding local zoning ordinances. The Court also ordered Commonwealth Court to revisit several arguments previously thrown out, including the controversial “physician gag order”. The local impact fee portion of Act 13 remains unaffected by today’s decision.
White’s statement is as follows:
“Today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a historic victory at a critical moment for the people of Pennsylvania. By affirming every Pennsylvanian’s constitutional right to clean air and clean water and upholding the right of local communities to govern themselves when it comes to certain aspects of natural gas development, a clear message has been sent to Governor Corbett and his friends in the energy industry: our fundamental Constitutional principles cannot be auctioned off to wealthy special interests in exchange for campaign dollars. On this day, David has defeated Goliath.
“Despite the $1.3 million spent by the energy industry to write and pass its own law, and a Governor and legislature all too eager to play along, each court that heard this case recognized the massive problems created by the zoning loopholes in Act 13. Eliminating local ordinances and replacing them with a ridiculously low standard of protections, like allowing drilling in residential neighborhoods and next to schools and churches, is not constitutional, not an environmental best practice, nor is it the proper way to do business in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court has made clear that anything less than true best practices when it comes to natural gas drilling moving forward will be unacceptable.
“I applaud the prudence and courage of the local municipalities that challenged this ill-conceived law, most of which reside in the 46th Legislative District. Furthermore, I am proud to have given my unequivocal, unabashed and unwavering support to the effort to have it repealed. Thankfully, the courts agreed that the legislature has no business passing laws to exclusively benefit one industry over another, and ultimately, that what might be good for Wysox or Athens Township in northeastern Pennsylvania may not be good for Cecil or South Fayette Township here in the southwest. As we’ve said all along, this is why local zoning is so important.
“The challenge to this law was not a partisan issue, and today’s outcome has nothing to do with trying to stifle responsible natural gas development. Instead, allowing the voices of local communities to participate in the process should lead to a more open and honest debate as operators realize they need to respect local governments in order to earn a social license to operate in our communities. Democrats and Republicans at the local level joined together to challenge Act 13 in an attempt to protect fundamental property rights, and in succeeding illustrated that policy is more important than politics when it comes to such a critically important matter.
“Although this is a monumental victory, now is not the time to spike the football or do a touchdown dance, because the real work is just beginning. It is time for Gov. Corbett and the industry to swallow their pride and work with local municipalities to develop a responsible approach to natural gas drilling that will allow development of Marcellus Shale while creating a culture of true accountability and responsibility. I welcome the conversation about how to strike a balance between the economic benefits of natural gas development and protecting the people of Pennsylvania, knowing full well that this crucial part of the law is on our side and that our constitutional protections are not for sale.”
Here is my floor speech on the bill from February 8, 2012:Scridb filter