The fate of Pennsylvania's controversial zoning provisions of Act 13, the 2012 amendment to the Oil and Gas Act, will soon be decided by the Supreme Court in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. At stake are provisions that would require municipalities to eliminate most restrictions on unconventional gas well development from local zoning ordinances. As one might expect from a state that has become a leader in modern oil and gas development, the provisions at issue expressly seek to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to local control of oil and gas development. This effort at uniformity has been met with stiff opposition from municipalities that believe Act 13 goes too far, usurping a local government's traditional role of regulating land use within its borders for the health and safety of its residents. So far, the plaintiff municipalities have had the better of the argument, challenging Act 13 on constitutional grounds, in contrast to a nationwide trend that has seen state courts relying on state/local conflict pre-emption doctrine to limit local efforts to regulate oil and gas development.
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