Those who have followed fracking closely in Pennsylvania, over the past decade, recall alarming legislation that was passed by our state legislature, known as ACT 13. The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed HB1950 by a narrow margin in early February 2012, and Act 13 was signed into law February 14, 2012 by Governor Tom Corbett. One area of serious contention regarded the restrictions placed on Pennsylvania health care professionals. It violated some of the basic tenets Pennsylvania doctors are sworn to uphold regarding public health. Pennsylvania doctors had been ‘gagged’ by the legislation, when it came to sharing critical information about potential patients.
Another onerous part of that legislation was that it essentially stripped local municipalities of their zoning rights, thereby allowing Marcellus Shale gas production activities in ALL zones, including residential neighborhoods.
Imagine having industrial grade fracking, with seventeen 2,500 horsepower diesel pumps running full blast 24 7, less than 1,000 feet from your front door. Convoys of wastewater tankers travelling your small local roads, day and night, intermingled with fleets of tractor trailers hauling frack sand, that was probably strip mined in the upper Midwest. The bright light, noise, vibration and fumes, that accompany the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus shale wells, that can be several miles deep, with as many as several dozen wells on each well pad, extending activity indefinitely.
Industrial activities should only be in industrial zones, right?
Thanks to the efforts of attorney John M. Smith of Smith Butz L.L.C. in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and others, parts of ACT 13 were overturned in the Pennsylvania courts, and many municipalities followed those decisions by revising their Oil and Gas ordinances.
In Murrysville, an overlay zone was left in place that would allow gas producers like Huntley and Huntley, now known as Olympus Energy, to drill and frack unconventional wells in residential zones.
A local citizens group, known as the Murrysville Watch Committee, filed suit against the Municipality of Murrysville’s Zoning Hearing Board, and that litigation has now reached the state’s Commonwealth Court, with a Monday morning court date scheduled. …
Monday May 10, 2021 starting at 9:30am ET
2nd on the list: Murrysville Watch Committee v. Municipality of Murrysville ZHB, et al.
YouTube LIVE STREAM link: https://youtu.be/MoRDzNYwg_w
A local citizen group’s challenge of Murrysville’s unconventional drilling ordinance has been struck down in court.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Harry F. Smail denied an appeal by the Murrysville Watch Committee, which challenged an earlier decision by the Murrysville Zoning Hearing Board.
Smail pointed to a November 2019 Commonwealth Court decision in the case of Protect P-T vs. Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board, in which the court upheld the validity of a similar zoning ordinance.
“The Court noted that the (township) sufficiently balanced its citizen’s rights to health, safety and welfare with their rights to develop their land and their management of minerals, and that the objectors’ concerns did not rise above speculation,” Smail wrote in his decision.
In Murrysville, a well pad can only be placed in about 5% of the overlay district, where unconventional drilling is permitted.
Smail wrote that Watch Committee members failed to meet the legal burden of showing that the ordinance “is arbitrary, unreasonable and unrelated to the public health, safety, morals and general welfare,” and that it presented no evidence “that would differentiate the ordinance … from any of the (other Pennsylvania) ordinances which were upheld on appeal.”
Smail noted that Murrysville’s ordinance appeared to be more protective of residents in its restriction of where a well pad can be placed.
Smail also rejected the committee’s argument that the overlay district constitutes spot zoning, an arbitrary classification of a small piece of land or, put more simply, a zoning decision that sets a specific property apart from adjacent zoning with no reasonable basis.
“On the contrary, the (Zoning Hearing Board) found by competent evidence that the overlay district is a sizable area that was chosen, not arbitrarily, but based on factors such as population density and location of infrastructure,” Smail wrote.
Murrysville officials spent more than seven years developing the ordinance, adjusting it several times in light of court decisions. In January, Murrysville council members approved the first fracking well in the municipality, Olympus Energy’s Titan well pad.
Murrysville Watch Committee members can further appeal Smail’s decision.