A Commonwealth Court judge on Wednesday afternoon granted a preliminary injunction regarding the state's new Marcellus Shale law, known as Act 13.
The order means that implementation of portions of the new law slated to go into effect Saturday will be delayed for 120 days.
The order reads: "While the ultimate determination on the constitutionality of Act 13 is not presently before the Court, the Court is of the view that municipalities must have an adequate opportunity to pass zoning laws that comply with Act 13 without the fear or risk that development of oil and gas operations under Act 13 will be inconsistent with later validly passed local zoning ordinances."
It continues: "For that reason, pre-existing ordinances must remain in effect until or unless challenged pursuant to Act 13 and are found to be invalid."
Cecil attorney John Smith, who is spearheading the challenge, said he was pleased with the ruling.
"The Commonwealth Court recognized the Legislature exposed Pennsylvania municipalities to potential harm, and ordered that the portion of Act 13 that relates to local zoning not go into effect for 120 days. That will give the court time to make a determination as to the constitutionality of Act 13," Smith said.
requested the expedited hearing last week.
Reached Wednesday, state , D-Cecil, clarified that the order will not restrict drilling activity—it just keeps the "status quo." He also said that the order does not affect the portion of the law that deals with the collection of a local impact fee.
"I believe today's ruling confirms concerns that I have had with Act 13 dealing with local ordinances in that the approach of Act 13 is not the best balance between allowing drilling activity and protecting our communities," he said. "Everybody says we want to do this the right way, and this reasonable delay issued by the Commonwealth Court enables us to really examine whether Act 13 is the right way to achieve that balance."
Editor's Note: To read the entire order, click on the attached PDF file.