FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Tim Briggs
Briggs lauds Commonwealth Court ruling on Marcellus shale law
HARRISBURG, July 26 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, today applauded a ruling by Commonwealth Court to throw out major portions of Pennsylvania's new Marcellus shale law, most significant the portion that stripped away the rights of local municipalities to establish their own local zoning ordinances to address natural gas drilling in their communities.
Commonwealth Court ruled that Act 13-2012, which was signed into law earlier this year, is unconstitutional in its provisions regarding local zoning ordinances and the Department of Environmental Protection's ability to waive well site setback requirements.
Briggs was among 30 House Democratic lawmakers who filed a special legal brief in May to support arguments in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's new Marcellus shale law.
Known as an "amicus curiae," the brief supported the lawsuit brought by several Pennsylvania municipalities challenging Act 13 as unconstitutional, specifically charging that it is a "special law that creates a class of one industry with substantially more rights than any other industry, citizen or business in the Commonwealth in violation of Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution."
The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court in March, questioning whether the law’s blanket zoning preemption provision is in violation of Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The local zoning preemption provision allows the state to preempt local zoning ordinances that have been used to provide reasonable protections for residents against nearby drilling activity.
“The effect of natural gas drilling has been among the top issues my constituents continue to contact me about,” Briggs said. “Environmentally, this new law seems almost designed to repeat the devastation left by the coal barons 100 years ago. It essentially placed the environmental health of the entire state into the hands of industrial gas drillers.
“It’s why I joined in support of challenging the law and why I will continue to fight for a responsible Marcellus shale policy for Pennsylvania. I am happy the court ruled the way it did today and look forward to having its opinion upheld as I and like-minded lawmakers continue to strive for a fair and sensible natural gas drilling policy for the state.”
Briggs has been a staunch advocate for the environment and protecting the health of residents where natural gas drilling and other industrial-related activities are concerned. He recently earned a 100 percent rating from four of Pennsylvania’s largest citizen-based environmental organizations for his efforts to protect the commonwealth’s water, air and neighborhoods from gas drilling.
He also is a co-sponsor of a plan authored by House Democrats, called the Marcellus Compact, that seeks to fix what Briggs considers the most egregious parts of the new law.
The Marcellus Compact includes legislation to restore municipal zoning authority; ensure tax fairness for by imposing a reasonable statewide tax on natural gas drillers for the life of the well; protect critical natural resources by increasing environmental setbacks and bonding requirements; increase transparency and safety by establishing a public online tracking system for fracking wastewater storage and disposal; prohibit drilling in floodplains; place a moratorium on discharging drilling wastewater into surface waters; guarantee the rights of patients to full medical disclosure and transparency when their health might have been affected by fracking chemicals; and provide incentives for drilling companies to hire Pennsylvania workers.