The drilling ruling: Good & bad news
The good news about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's expansive ruling on natural gas and oil drilling is that it checks the overarching (if not overreaching) power of the state to run roughshod over local governments' rights (through zoning laws) to regulate such activity in the name of the public weal.
The bad news about Thursday's long-awaited Act 13 ruling is that, with largely anecdotal “proofs,” industry, in general, is tarred as a pejorative and the burgeoning shale gas and oil industry is, particularly (and ignorantly and undeservedly, too) smeared with a scarlet letter.
The crux of the 4-2 ruling, written by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, is that it is unconstitutional for the state, by legislative fiat, to override the Pennsylvania Constitution, including the Environmental Rights Amendment, which guarantees the “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
He's correct. But while such drilling might have the propensity to violate the latter codicil, it's certainly not the automatic thing that Mr. Justice Castille paints it as with his broad brush. Extrapolating his standard, industry itself would be unconstitutional. And that's a reckless, economy-killing proposition.
That said, the ruling represents the perfect opportunity for local governments and the industry to hit the reset button and to cooperatively work to balance the interests of all — the people, the industry and the environment.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.