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Environment & Energy

DEP Wants High Court to Reconsider Act 13 Ruling

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission have asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider a recent decision striking down key components of  Act 13 which regulates natural gas drilling.

The PUC and DEP Thursday filed a motion claiming parts of the high court's main opinion need additional evidence and that they should take another look at how much of the law stays in force.  The justices last month threw out significant portions of the law, which instituted impact fees and limited the power of local governments to determine where the gas industry can drill.

James Schultz, General Counsel to the Governor, issued a statement regarding the reconsideration request. 

"The Supreme Court’s decision is a stunning departure from the historical practice of that Court, and an unrestrained venture into a fact-finding role that the Court always has insisted is not its proper place in the judicial system. Accordingly, today’s request for reconsideration seeks to give Act 13 its fair day in court, as every law of this Commonwealth deserves when challenged," the statement said.

The Corbett administration said the justices’ opinion that drilling would have detrimental effects on the environment was based on facts that were not established in court. The filing with the high court asks for "development of an evidentiary record" in Commonwealth Court in a process "in which all parties have a real and equal opportunity to participate" followed by a "fair and final determination" regarding the constitutionality of Act 13.

Bucks County Attorney Jordan Yeager, who represents municipalities that challenged Act 13, told StateImpact Pennsylvania that the Corbett administration's assertion is not true. 

“The court had extensive briefing from industry, from the administration, from various departments within the administration and from friends of the court including organizations and municipalities from around the state, so I don’t think that this is something that they ought to be complaining about because this is exactly how they asked for it to be considered.” 

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court says the municipalities have up to 17 days to respond. Then, the justices will vote on whether to reconsider their ruling.