Implications of the Pa Supreme Court’s Broad and Sweeping Decision on Fracking in Robinson v. Commonwealth

In delving into Pa Act 13 and Shale Gas fracking and development for my case load and my current zoning work, this 200 page ROBINSON TOWNSHIP v. COMMONWEALTH opinion from December is the most fascinating and powerful Pa Supreme Court Case, maybe ever. The decision ruled that certain parts of the Act violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The opinion then; (1) adds incredible “meat” to the bones of the 1970′s Environment Rights Amendment to the Pa Constitution (Pa is one of only three states to have such an amendment, but it was thought to be of very limited effect); (2) Makes both state and local government officials “trustees” of the environment for future generations; (3) makes state-wide zoning without local approval nearly impossible; (4) constitutionalizes local zoning making the later permitting of more intense uses in restrictive areas nearly impossible; (5) may just give private persons a “constitutional tort” claim allowing them to sue their local government officials for any act or omission that may have an environmental impact in violation of their constitutional rights to a clean environment under the Pa constitution and;  (6) gives potential plaintiffs suing a municipality plenty of ammunition to argue that this activity should be limited to Industrial Zones only, despite the abundance of current drilling going on throughout other more restrictive zones of many municipalities, setting up huge potential conflicts with private property interests under the takings clause of the constitution.  WOW. This case will quite literally fuel at least a decade of litigation for us lawyers to sort out and interpret the scope of Justice Castille’s decision.

One thought on “Implications of the Pa Supreme Court’s Broad and Sweeping Decision on Fracking in Robinson v. Commonwealth

  1. Incapable is your word. Not mine. I don’t think I feel anything, Mark. I know. I know that the use is a pre-existing, non-conforming use. I know that the uses on site have been mefiidod in the past in ways not in keeping with the zoning law. I know that the uses have been expanded in the past. I know that a pre-exisitng non-conforming use in Woodstock is allowed a 25% expansion from the time in was made non-conforming. What I doubt is that they have any capacity left on site to do that. And I certainly know that if it is allowed an approved site plan, CCD review and any required variances must be issued prior to the issuance of a building permit. And actually, Mark, it is the ZBA’a job to determine whether a ZEO determination is correct or incorrect. Hence, the word appeal in their title. And you certainly can’t consider an appeal without interpreting the law. They are the first step before a neighbor and neighbor’s spend money on their properties too Mark can file and Article 78 with the State.

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