HARRISBURG, Pa. — The highest court in Pennsylvania, heart of the country’s natural gas drilling boom, on Thursday struck down significant portions of a law that limited the power of local governments to determine where the industry can operate – rules the industry sought from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers.
In a 4-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the industry-friendly rules set out by the 2012 law violated the state constitution, although the majority did not entirely agree on why they were unconstitutional.
Seven municipalities had challenged the law that grew out of the state’s need to modernize 20-year-old drilling laws to account for a Marcellus Shale drilling boom made possible by innovations in technology, most notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The process, also called fracking, has drawn widespread criticism from environmentalists and many residents living near drilling operations.