State Sen. Jim Ferlo, whose district covers Oakmont Borough, has enlisted the support of 15 of his Senate Democratic colleagues in signing on to an amicus brief affirming the efforts of the seven municipalities that sued the Commonwealth to overturn zoning provisions of Act 13—The Oil and Gas Act, Pennsylvania’s newly enacted legislation governing Marcellus Shale operations.
The amicus brief specifically requests that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirm the decision of the Commonwealth Court’s majority ruling that found that these sections of Act 13 were unconstitutional.
The House Democratic Caucus also has filed a special legal brief, known as an "amicus curiae." State Rep. Tony DeLuca, whose district covers Verona, is one of 44 in support. The House Democratic brief is available to view online here.
“Act 13 is offensive for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because it runs rough-shod over the critical and proper role of local municipalities to make zoning and land use decisions,” Ferlo said. “The law ties the hands of local elected officials by prohibiting them from fulfilling their constitutional responsibility of protecting the health, safety, morals and public welfare of their municipal residents.”
Act 13 passed in February, primarily with Senate Republican support, and established a new law overseeing the oil and gas industry.
Ferlo added, “The General Assembly should use its legislative powers to provide for the public’s health and safety, not solely to make natural gas drilling companies more money. In putting the latter before the former, the Republican majority passed an unconstitutional law, and so my colleagues and I call upon the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the municipal governments and the amicus brief my colleagues and I have submitted.”
The Supreme Court has scheduled the hearing on Act 13 for Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh. The court currently has only six members, so in the event that the court is tied, it will affirm the Commonwealth Court decision and the determination that the law is unconstitutional.