By: Andrew D.H. Rau
If momentum forms behind a bill introduced in Harrisburg, the traditional understandings of local zoning control in Pennsylvania could be in for a major adjustment. The legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph Scarnati would provide for impact fees to be paid by Marcellus Shale drillers across the state. But a component of the bill would also have the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission adopt a model zoning ordinance for state-wide use, limiting local regulation over drilling. Importantly, the proposal would prohibit any local government from adopting an ordinance with more stringent standards than the state model. If a local government went beyond the model ordinance, it would be prohibited from receiving a share of the impact fees.
The language of the legislation would require the model ordinance to allow drilling by right in all districts other than residential zones, and could limit height, noise and other restrictions unless the limits are applied to similar local land uses.
Industry and local government advocates have long debated the line between state authority and local land use control, and this legislation is the latest hotspot.
You can track the legislation here: