Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Speaker Sam Smith (R-66) issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court Ruling on Act 13 Zoning Provisions:
The decision made by four Supreme Court Justices today to invalidate a portion of Act 13 of 2012 is incredibly disappointing. While recognizing that a decision of this length will take weeks to fully absorb, we are stunned that four Justices would issue this ruling which will so harshly impact the economic welfare of Pennsylvanians. The majority decision seems to raise significantly more questions than it answers.
Chief Justice Castille’s opinion relies in part on inaccurate anecdotes and unproven science. The consequences of this decision will likely be the increase of natural gas prices for consumers, while at the same time costing a multitude of jobs in Pennsylvania. It is important to note that this decision resets the clock on zoning prior to the enactment of Act 13, therefore municipalities will continue to have some statewide checks on local discretion.
The Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation was the result of great collaboration between state officials, local officials, industry leaders and environmental groups. There were dozens of strong environmental protections included in Act 13 and due to the Court’s jarring decision it seems that the Court even invalidated some of them.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors was fully engaged in numerous legislative discussions and supported the zoning language during passage, until they later decided to oppose it in court. The language in dispute was crafted with their full input.
In light of the broad severability language discussion contained in the majority opinion, there is some question whether the impact fee which has resulted in over $400 million over the past two years, will remain in place going forward. A reasonable level of regulatory consistency across the Commonwealth is vital to the success of any major industry or employer – however the Supreme Court failed to recognize that in their majority decision. Our fear now is that landowners and hardworking individuals will suffer because of today’s decision.