Relevant Court Cases

 

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act 247) is the enabling legislation that allows local governments to enact planning and land use ordinances. It is specific, in Section 603 of Act 247, that the regulation of oil and gas activities are “superseded and pre-empted by…the act of December 19, 1984 (P.L. 1140, No. 223) known as the Oil and Gas Act”. This means if a certain aspect of this industry is regulated by the provisions of the Oil and Gas Act that local ordinances cannot regulate the same. The following Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions help further define the pre-emption issue. The Oakmont Borough case involves the Borough’s Zoning Ordinance and the Salem Township case involves the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. This issue will be further defined as additional cases find their way through the court system.

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Huntley & Huntley Inc.  v.  Borough Council of the Borough of Oakmont

In the Oakmont Case, the court concluded the “…features of oil and gas well operations regulated by …” the Oil and Gas Act, pertain to “…technical aspects of well functioning and matters ancillary thereto… rather than the well’s location.” The court further concluded the Oakmont Zoning Ordinance served “…different purposes from those enumerated in the Oil and Gas Act, and hence, that its overall restriction on oil and gas wells in R-1 districts is not preempted by…” the Oil and Gas Act. The decision continues with the following footnote. “Because of the potential for confusion, we again emphasize that our holding in this respect should not be understood to imply that any and all regulation of oil and gas development under the Ordinance would be permissible simply because it is zoning legislation enacted pursuant to the MPC. We do not, for instance, suggest that the municipality could permit drilling in a particular district but then make that permission subject to conditions addressed to features of well operations regulated by the Act.”

To read the full court case, click the link below:

Huntley & Huntley Inc. v. Borough Council of the Borough of Oakmont

To read a summarized analysis of the court case, click the link below:

Huntley & Huntley Inc. v. Borough Council of the Borough of Oakmont – Analysis

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Range Resources – Appalachia, LLC, Penneco oil Company, CB Energy, Inc. & Independent Oil & Gas Association of Pennsylvania  v.  Salem Township

In the Salem Case, the court found that Salem Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance was in effect regulating the same items which were pre-empted by the Oil and Gas Act of 1984, represented “…an obstacle to the legislative purposes underlying the Act…”, and contained purposes that overlapped “…substantially with the goals as set forth in the Oil and Gas Act…”. Salem’s ordinance attempted to regulate the operation of drilling and included goals that would protect neighboring properties and natural resources. The Supreme Court agreed with the common pleas court in that the oil and gas regulations in Salem Township’s Ordinance were pre-empted by the Oil and Gas Act.

To read the full court case, click the link below:

Range Resources – Appalachia, LLC, Penneco oil Company, CB Energy, Inc. & Independent Oil & Gas Association of Pennsylvania v. Salem Township

To read a summarized analysis of the court case, click the link below:

Range Resources – Appalachia, LLC, Penneco oil Company, CB Energy, Inc. & Independent Oil & Gas Association of Pennsylvania v. Salem Township – Analysis

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Penneco Oil Company, Inc., Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC and the Independent Oil & Gas Association of Pennsylvania  v.  The County of Fayette, Pennsylvania and the Office of Planning, Zoning and Community Development of Fayette County, Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Penneco Oil Company, Inc. v. The County of Fayette, Pennsylvania, recently affirmed a lower court decision holding that a local zoning ordinance was not preempted by the state’s Oil and Gas Act (58 P.S. §§601.101-601.605). The court observed that the ordinance provided that an oil or gas well would be a permitted special exemption – in instances where it would otherwise be prohibited – under certain conditions. – VORYS Legal Counsel

To read the full court case, click the link below:

Penneco Oil Company, Inc., Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC and the Independent Oil & Gas Association of Pennsylvania v. The County of Fayette, Pennsylvania and the Office of Planning, Zoning and Community Development of Fayette County, Pennsylvania

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