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Kaitlyn Maxwell of Greenberg Traurig

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued two decisions on June 1 relating to the operation of natural gas wells in Pennsylvania. This article focuses on one of those decisions: Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township, No. 67 MAP 2016 (Pa. June 1). The court (4-3) determined a zoning board erred in granting a conditional use permit for drilling and operation of gas wells in a residential-agricultural district. Yet, the court acknowledged the ability of a local governing body to amend zoning ordinances to allow drilling in any or all districts. The court also made it clear that drilling may be allowed as a conditional use (without amendment to an ordinance) in residential or agricultural areas if the zoning board decision is supported by the evidentiary record. On the same day, the court (6-1) upheld, for the most part, a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of new rules concerning the operation of unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania while a petition challenging the validity of the regulations remains pending, see The Marcellus Shale Coalition v.  Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 115 MAP 2016 (June 1) (affirming in part and reversing in part grant of preliminary injunctive relief).

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