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July 25, 2014
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Looking back in Pennsylvania in 2012

A Pennsylvania court in 2012 said municipalities could control where drilling occurred in their municipalities; the case is under appeal.


In July, a Pennsylvania court sustained four counts in the suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania challenging the constitutionality of Act 13, a law that would supersede local municipalities’ abilities to zone oil and gas drilling operations. The court upheld counts charging that the act is unconstitutional because it is an improper exercise of police power; that, by allowing for incompatible uses in certain zones it is in derogation of municipalities’ comprehensive zoning plans, and does not allow them to create new or follow existing comprehensive plans; that it is in violation of the state Municipal Planning Code; and that it delegates authority to the Department of Environmental Preservation without definitive standards or authorizing language.

The case was appealed, but in August, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that municipalities are not required to obey Act 13 while the Robinson Township decision is appealed to the state supreme court. A final ruling has not yet been issued.

After a year and a half of investigation by a Pike County Grand Jury, Donald and Eleanor “Nelia” Wall were exonerated of any criminal activity. However, Donald was removed as zoning officer and Nelia, a township supervisor, had to resign from the board. Stating that the decision did not come from a plea-bargaining offer, they did not admit to any wrongdoing. Part of the agreement called for the couple to pay $7,500 to Shohola Township as “restitution.”