Pennsylvania’s pro-fracking forces are punishing four townships that passed local environmental rights ordinances challenging the industry by withholding nearly $1 million from a new fund collected from gas drillers, under the first distribution of “impact fees” under Act 13, the pro-fracking law written by industry lobbyists.
The four townships—Cecil, Robinson, South Fayette and Mount Pleasant—had the audacity to adopt local zoning laws that barred the natural gas industry from setting up drill sites and infrastructure anywhere it wanted, which was allowed by Act 13, and then sued the state to protect local zoning rights. They did not want drilling sites near schools, parks and residential areas—although Pennsylvania state law says they must designate some drilling zones in their towns.
“There seems to be a conflict of interest,” said Ben Price, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Project Director, a public interest law firm that supports local anti-drilling ordinances. “The PUC [Public Utility Commission] is a party to the lawsuit [over local zoning rights], but the PUC is acting to challenge the ordinances of the municipalities in the lawsuit. It is really a state authorized slap suit if you will.”
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