Forwarded by Jon Eich:
(A key target of the state legislation is local ordinances like the Environmental Bill of Rights & Natural Gas Ban, adopted by State College voters this month. – KW)
It appears our good Governor, lawyer that he is, doesn’t understand that the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code already contains a process for appealing local zoning decisions that does not bypass the courts to get a bureaucrats decisions. I am opposing both HB 1950 and SB 1100 for the following reasons:
- HB1950 and SB1100 would preempt strong local ordinances regulating Marcellus drilling in Pennsylvania and replace them with weak and inadequate state regulations. The procedures established in these bills to preempt local regulations appears to violate the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Constitution.
- These legislative bills were initiated to pre-empt all local zoning ordinances attempting to restrict Marcellus drilling in their municipalities and replace them with weakened state ordinances. The attempt to create statewide zoning regulations for specific industries, particularly the extractive industries, is a pernicious and continuing habit of the Pennsylvania Legislature, the worst legislature money can buy.
- Allowing the Attorney General to rule on local ordinances, the latest twist in the bills, is tantamount to preemption through the back door! In addition this sets a dangerous precedent for allowing bureaucrats to assume the Constitutional powers of the courts.
- Drilling would even be allowed in residential areas, in resource protection areas, in environmentally sensitive areas and on public lands. This is patently absurd on its face, to allow a potentially dangerous environmental use, without mandating best practices and intense regulation in residential areas will lead to further discrimination of the poor and powerless, particularly in rural areas.
- These bills are an assault on local governments’ sovereignty and the democratic process by allowing corporate gas interests to dictate what legislation will be passed. These bills bypass the established appeals process for local zoning decisions.
- It is an outrage that these bills do not provide adequate setbacks for wells, waterways, etc., do not adequately provide for proper control of air pollution, and do not provide for an adequate tax or impact fee. These bills do not provide for transparency of inspections, of reporting or of violation notices. Penalties contained in these bills are so low they are an incentive to violate the regulations.
- These bills are a sellout to the gas industry, which will eventually use up all of the gas contained in those shale deposits and leave another environmental disaster for the taxpayers to clean up in the name of the pursuit of profit. The argument that the industry needs consistency of regulations in order to thrive is nonsense, if that is the case, then abolish all zoning ordinances in Pennsylvania and establish a statewide ordinance, since all zoning ordinances regulate all businesses and industries in a community.
- These bills reflect completely the wishes of the gas industry and not the wishes and concerns of the people of Pennsylvania. These bills destroy the concept of home rule in Pennsylvania, they deny the citizens of the Commonwealth their Constitutional right to local government, and their statutory right to local land use control.
-Fred Wilder, retired county planner, blogging at paplanner