A panel of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judges Wednesday morning heard oral arguments in the legal challenge to Act 13—the state’s newly passed law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activities.
A panel of seven judges heard the arguments from lawyers representing the state, as well as those representing a cluster of communities—including Cecil Township—which filed the constitutional challenge to the portion of the act that eliminated local zoning control.
Cecil attorney John Smith, who represents the communities, doctor and nonprofit making the challenge, said Wednesday afternoon that the proceeding went as well as can be expected—and added that the courtroom was standing-room only.
“The president judge understood and framed our argument,” he said of the hearing, adding that the questions asked “mimicked” concerns raised in the challenge.
Smith said Judge Patricia A. McCullough specifically asked the state about incidents involving fires and spills at well sites in Mt. Pleasant Township—and inquired about how the municipality should protect itself now under Act 13.
All in all?
“It’s all you can expect at this point in the proceedings,” Smith said.
It was unclear when an opinion would be issued by the court, he said—but added that he was hopeful that the decision would be rendered soon.
"I'm all for figuring out the 'right way' to develop Marcellus Shale, but Act 13 is not the right way for the people of Pennsylvania who were here before the shale boom started and will still be here when it ends," the legislator said.
"Hopefully today's oral arguments will serve as a wake-up call to those who have so far refused to work with anyone who doesn't agree with them already so we can move beyond the propaganda and come up with a reasonable approach to this critically important issue."
"I think it went rather well for us today," said Cecil Township Supervisor Andy Schrader, who attended the proceedings.
He lauded the attorneys handling the challenge for Cecil and the other communities.
Robinson Township Supervisor Brian Coppolla, who attended along with Schrader, agreed.
"The judges really grilled our attorneys, and they were able to answer all of their questions," he said, adding that wasn't the case with the attorneys representing the state—they seemed to be "fumbling for words."
"The other side did not look happy when we left," Coppola said.
The story originally appeared on Canon-McMillan Patch.