Tag Archives: Act 13

PA Rep. Introduces Bill to Retain Local Impact Fee if Severance Tax is Enacted

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

State Rep. Jesse White on Tuesday introduced legislation that would preserve the Marcellus Shale local impact fee if a severance tax on natural gas production is enacted.

The impact fee, which was enacted in 2012 as part of the state’s natural gas drilling law, Act 13, brought in an estimated $225.7 million in 2013.

The lion’s share of the impact fee goes to municipalities and counties most heavily impacted by drilling to mitigate road and infrastructure damage, and other effects from natural gas development.

White, D-Cecil Township, said that according to current law, if a severance tax is enacted the impact fee will go away by operation of law:

Title 58, Chapter 23: Unconventional Gas Well Fee, § 2318, Expiration:

(a) Notice.–The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall, upon the imposition of a severance tax on unconventional gas wells in this Commonwealth, submit for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin notice of the imposition.

(b) Date.–This chapter shall expire on the date of the publication of the notice under subsection (a).

White’s legislation, House Bill 2403, would repeal that section of law to ensure any severance tax enacted would not eliminate the local impact fee.

“Like with any industrial operation, local communities and residents feel the impact of natural-gas development, whether it is damage to roads or increased demands placed on emergency-service providers and other resources,” White, whose district includes portions of Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties. “The Marcellus Shale impact fee is essential for our municipalities dealing with these impacts, and we need to be absolutely certain the impact fee remains available to help lessen those burdens when Pennsylvania finally joins every other gas-producing state by enacting a reasonable severance tax.”

White said that with increased discussion and support from both Republicans and Democrats for a severance tax on natural gas drilling, the only way to be certain the impact fee remains in place is by amending or repealing the language within current law.

“This is a manufactured crisis created by Gov. Corbett and those in Legislature who voted for Act 13, and it must be fixed to ensure the communities impacted by natural gas drilling activity continue to receive the Local Impact Fee,” White said. “Instead of using the threat of losing the Impact Fee as an election year scare tactic, we need to put policy over politics and do the right thing by passing H.B. 2403 without delay.”

“I urge local municipal officials to make sure their voices are heard on this important topic,” White said.

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Tuesday Must-Read: PA PUC Hired PR Firm With Marcellus Shale Coalition Ties to Help With Act 13

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State Impact published a report Monday regarding how the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has for the past two years hired a public relations firm with ties to the Marcellus Shale Coalition to advise it on Act 13 and other zoning regulation matters related to the industry.

The story by NPR reads:

The law firm of McNees, Wallace and Nurick is an associate member of the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition. The firm’s attorneys routinely represent energy companies before the state Public Utility Commission (PUC).

In fact McNees is currently representing Sunoco Logistics in a high-profile case before the commission. The company is seeking permission from the PUC to be considered a “public utility corporation,” which would exempt its Mariner East pipeline from local zoning codes.

McNees has also spent the past two years working as outside legal counsel to the PUC– advising the PUC on its authority under the state’s two-year-old oil and gas law, known as Act 13. The firm was hired in 2012 and has received $29,593 for its work so far.

A political science professor in the story is quoted as saying the situation is “pretty bizarre.”

Read it for yourself here.

And let me know what you think.

-amanda

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Marcellus Shale Coalition, PIOGA Petition Court to Intervene in Act 13 Case

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The Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association on Wednesday filed a petition again asking the Commonwealth Court to allow them to intervene in the ongoing court case revolving around Act 13, the state’s law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activity.

In a 23-page court filing, attorneys for the industry groups – two attorneys from K&L Gates firm – argue that their clients have a “unique and compelling interest” in the case.

The state Supreme Court in December upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling that declared portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional – specifically, the portions that pre-empted local zoning ordinances.

But the Supreme Court also remanded several issues, such as medical gag orders, back to the lower court.

Both industry parties had petitioned the Commonwealth Court in April of 2012 to intervene in the case. They were denied. The industry groups also petitioned the Supreme Court to allow them to intervene. The Supreme Court also denied their request.

In Wednesday’s filing, attorneys wrote:

“The industry parties have…unique, compelling and legally enforceable interests in the outcome of this case.”

The attorneys argue that the industry’s interests can no longer be soundly represented by Commonwealth parties involved in the case.

They write:

When the issue before this court was the constitutionality of Act 13 in its entirety, this court concluded that those interests were adequately represented by the Commonwealth parties. Now, however, there are several issues before this court related to the interpretation and application of the Supreme Court majority decision and, more importantly for purposes of this petition in respect to the new issues presented, the industry parties are neither necessarily aligned with nor adequately represented by Commonwealth parties.”

They later add:

“Rather, the parties are potentially directly adverse to the Commonwealth parties.”

The petition also suggests that industry parties should be permitted to intervene in the case on remand because of the substantial impact the eventual outcome will have on them.

“The industry parties have a substantial and unrepresented interest in how the underlying issues are addressed and how pending questions are resolved. Act 13 contains a myriad of regulatory provisions including…the payment of impact fees; the content of permit applications, well site construction (and more).

No current party to this case must actually plan for, finance and comply with Act 13’s extensive list of regulatory requirements. Thus, no party has the same interests as the industry parties.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, John Smith, one of the lead attorneys who spearheaded the Act 13 challenge on behalf of a handful of communities such as Cecil and Peters townships, a nonprofit and a medical doctor, said:

“In our review, it’s the same argument they have raised and lost in the same court.”

A status conference in the case has been set for Monday in Harrisburg.

Application for Relief[2]

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Protesters Waiting to Deliver Petition to Gov. Corbett Asking for Ban on Fracking of Public Forests

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(Photos of protesters waiting to deliver petition to Corbett is courtesy of the John Hanger Campaign)

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About 100 protesters waited Tuesday afternoon to deliver a petition to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

More than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for a ban of fracking in state forests. Held in the rotunda of the state Capitol, the rally was organized by League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action.

John Hanger, a Democrat seeking the nomination for governor in the May primary, posted on his Facebook page that he supported those gathering in Harrisburg to oppose Corbett’s plan to allow Marcellus Shale gas drilling in state forests.

In a press release, he said:

I salute the coalition of almost three dozen organizations led by the League of Conservations Voters to bring the message to Corbett’s doorstep that “no means no.” They deserve our thanks and support.

For coverage from NPR, click here.

 

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UPDATED: PA Supreme Court Denies Request to Reconsider Act 13 Decision

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:03 p.m. Friday to add quotes from two lead attorneys who challenged Act 13.

By Amanda Gillooly
Editor

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday announced that it will not reconsider its decision that Act 13 – the state’s set of laws regulating the Marcellus Shale gas drilling activities – is unconstitutional.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission last month requested the court reconsider the case following its Dec. 19 decision, which declared key provisions of Act 13 as unconstitutional, including portions that would have taken zoning control out of the hands of local government bodies.

The DEP and PUC hired an outside law firm, Conrad O’Brien, P.C., to handle the filing. One of the partners of the firm is Christopher Carusone, who joined the firm after leaving his position as Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff in July.

John Smith, one of the lead attorneys representing the handful of municipalities such as Cecil and Peters township, a non-profit and medical doctor, said he was pleased with the decision.
Reached Friday, Smith said:
“We are extremely pleased the court acted as justly and swiftly in denying this unprecedented request to reconsider. We look forward to litigating the injustices that the Supreme Court remanded back to the Commonwealth Court.”
One of those issues, he said, relates to gag orders on medical doctors.

Jordan Yeager, one of the lead attorneys on the case stated, “The Corbett Administration wanted a ‘do-over.’ The Supreme Court said ‘no.’ Act 13 violated our fundamental constitutional rights. The court’s landmark ruling stands and we are all safer as a result.”

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the original petitioners in the case said, “The State has heard the final word on Act 13 from the highest authority. Once again the primary rights of clean air, water, and a healthy environment for the people of the Commonwealth have been reiterated. We hope the Governor and his administration can now finally accept that they were wrong in their attempt to undo the Court’s deliberations. The governor should listen to what the Court has said and realize that the Court’s thoughtful, extensive set of opinions instructs all levels of government to fully adhere to their ruling. This is a great day for Pennsylvania”.

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UPDATED: DEP Hears Public Comments on Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations at W&J

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board on Wednesday heard testimony from residents who packed into a Washington & Jefferson College meeting room to say their piece on proposed oil and gas regulations for the state.

To read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s coverage of the story, click here:

For coverage from the Observer-Reporter’s Rick Shrum, click here:

I was unable to find coverage from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Editor’s Note: Still looking for photos and video. If you have either, please email them to Amanda Gillooly at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com.

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PA DEP Extends Public Comment Period for Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations, Adds Two Hearings

DEP Sec. Chris Abruzzo said 90 hearings in 90 days is unheard of - and said public input is important to the process.

DEP Sec. Chris Abruzzo said 9 hearings in 90 days is unheard of – and said public input is important to the process.

Editor’s Note: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday released the following press release on its website. -amanda

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board announced Wednesday that the public comment period and series of public hearings on the proposed oil and gas surface activities regulation have been extended.

“One of the clear messages we’ve been getting through this hearing and comment process, from both industry and environmental groups, is that we should hold additional hearings and extend the comment period,” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “Public participation is a key component when crafting these regulations, and we are happy to accommodate this extended period.”

The public comment period, originally scheduled to end on Feb. 12 is extended for 30 days to March 14.

Two additional public hearings will also be held, both beginning at 6 p.m, at these locations:

• Feb. 10: Troy High School, 150 High St., Troy, PA 16947
• Feb. 12: Warren County Courthouse, 204 4th Ave., Warren, PA 16365

“Nine public hearings and a total of 90 days for public comment is unprecedented – we are committed to understanding the concerns of all Pennsylvanians on this important state regulation,” Abruzzo said.

The hearings are being held by the EQB for the purpose of accepting comments on a proposed regulation for environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities.

The EQB is a 20-member independent board that adopts all DEP regulations and considers petitions to change regulations.

For more information on how to submit comments or how to sign up to make comments at one of the upcoming hearings, click here.

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PA Supreme Court: Sorry, GOP Leaders, You Cannot Intervene in Act 13 Case

State Sen. Joe Scarnati, seen here with Gov. Tom Corbett, left, has no legal standing to intervene in the Act 13 legal battle, the Supreme Court affirmed Tuesday

State Sen. Joe Scarnati, seen here with Gov. Tom Corbett, left, has no legal standing to intervene in the Act 13 legal battle, the Supreme Court affirmed Tuesday

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that two state GOP leaders still have no place in the court battle regarding Act 13, the law governing Marcellus Shale drilling.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Samuel H. Smith, both Republicans, had sought to intervene in the Act 13 challenge.

But the Commonwealth Court “held that the legislators did not have a legally enforceable interest in the action.”

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday, affirming the ruling.

In the order, the Supreme Court wrote:

Following review of the briefs submitted, the Order of the Commonwealth Court is hereby AFFIRMED.

In this matter, the legislators offer that their purpose for intervening is to defend the constitutionality of Act 13, and to offer evidence and argument with respect to the intent of the General Assembly in enacting Act 13 and to
the procedure by which Act 13 was adopted.

As articulated, the legislators’ interest implicates neither a defense of the power or authority of their offices nor a defense of the potency of their right to vote.

Rather, the legislators simply seek to offer their perspective on the correctness of governmental conduct, i.e., that the General Assembly did not violate the substantive and procedural strictures of the Pennsylvania Constitution in enacting Act 13.

…The interest articulated is not sufficient to support the party standing of legislators in a legal action challenging the constitutionality of a legislative enactment.

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Act 13 Challengers: DEP, PUC Have No Basis for Supreme Court Reconsideration

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

By Amanda Gillooly

Editor

The law firm that led the legal challenge against a Pennsylvania law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activities this week filed a response to a motion two state agencies made earlier this month petitioning the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision that some of those regulations, collectively known as Act 13, were unconstitutional.

Attorneys for Smith Butz, the Southpointe-based firm that represented a handful of municipalities such as Cecil, Peters and Robinson townships, as well as a nonprofit and medical doctor in the challenge, filed the answer Tuesday, writing that, “Citizens respectfully request that this honorable court deny (their) request.”

In the 19-page filing, Smith Butz argues that the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Commission failed to demonstrate a compelling reason for the court to reconsider its position.

Attorneys wrote:

Reargument before an appellant court is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and reargument will be allowed only when there are compelling reasons.”

(The DEP and PUC) presented no compelling reasons for extraordinary relief.

Attorneys from Smith Butz also wrote that the state agencies’ argument for reconsideration revolved around the standard the Supreme Court used to make its determination that portions of Act 13 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution – they specifically allege the court applied a “new” standard.

Smith Butz attorneys disagreed with this logic, writing:

(The standard used by the Supreme Court) follows the plain language of Section 27, which has been a part of the Pennsylvania Constitution for (more than) 40 years.

Agencies clearly recognized this standard, conceding that the Commonwealth…has a duty under Section 27 to conserve and maintain public natural resources.

Agencies also previously recognized that government agencies must ‘balance environmental and social concerns’ and even argued that the General Assembly did the appropriate balancing when it enacted Act 13.’

Yet now, agencies claim that they did not have an opportunity to show how Act 13 satisfies Section 27, and even argue ignorance of a balance test.

To the extent (the DEP and PUC) failed to raise argument in defense of Act 13, they cannot do so now.

A majority of the court recognized that Act 13 reflected that the General Assembly made no effort to account for local concerns or to mitigate localized impact of shale gas on the people ad their public natural resources.

…(the Supreme Court opinion) explained that Act 13’s primarily stated purpose is not to effectuate the constitutional obligation to protect and preserve Pennsylvania’s natural environment. Rather, the purpose of the statute is to provide a maximally favorable environment for industry operators.”

SmithButz attorneys also argue that the request should “be rejected because it would compromise the finality of court’s decision.”

They wrote:

“The court should not sanction an approach to the resolution of cases that does not comport with basic fairness and ultimately erodes finality and judicial economy. Because no compelling reason exists to justify reconsideration, (the DEP and PUC’s) current request fosters undue delay and creates the specter of uncertainty regarding the outcome and effect of this landmark case.”

Editor’s Note: I am having some issues with Scribd at the moment – will get a copy of this thing online ASAP. Sorry for the inconvenience! -amanda

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Chinese Government-Owned Company to Drill in Greene County, PA

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A Chinese government-owned company has entered into an agreement with a private U.S. Marcellus Shale drilling firm to develop 25 wells in Greene County, Pa., over the next year and a half.

The corporation, a subsidiary of China’s Shenhua Energy Co., the world’s largest coal producer, is reportedly drilling locally to “learn how to tap into natural gas embedded in shale,” according to Fuel Fix.

Shenhua’s domestic drilling partner, Denver-based Energy Corp. of America, confirmed in a news release that the Chinese company will contribute the first $90 million toward drilling the wells, while ECA will be the operator of the properties.

Any remaining capital expenditures will be split evenly between the two companies, according to ECA.

ECA Chief Executive Officer John Mork said of the deal:

It is only fitting for these operations to take place in Greene County. This area of Appalachia has been at the center of ECA’s Marcellus development, as well as a hotbed of Marcellus development. We have an outstanding track record there, an excellent reputation, respect from local community members and leaders, and extensive experience working in the Marcellus. And – we are experts in shale gas development. We are very pleased to be working with Shenhua on this joint venture and this is only the beginning of what, I hope, will be a long, mutually-beneficial working relationship.

Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, a vocal Marcellus Shale drilling proponent who supported the recently overturned Act 13, represents Greene County but did not immediately return a message on his cell phone seeking more information.

ECA’s media relations spokeswoman said Tuesday afternoon that no further information about the drilling plans were available, including where the wells will be located in Greene County.

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