To the editor:
I am writing to applaud the recent decision by Pennsylvania's highest court putting the brakes on the Republican majority in the Legislature and Governor Corbett when they gave the natural gas industry carte blanche to ignore local government residential zoning rules in its frenzy to drill for gas.
In a 4-2 decision, the state Supreme Court said the Legislature violated the state Constitution when it passed a law in 2012 limiting the power of local government to determine where the gas industry could drill - so-called fracking. Seven municipalities challenged the law, which restricted local government's ability to control where gas companies can place rigs, waste pits, pipelines, compressors and processing stations.
This law was passed over the objections of local government, Democratic legislators and environmentalists by a group of politicians who normally like to pay lip service to the sanctity of local home rule. The Supreme Court decision answered Governor Corbett's appeal of a similar Commonwealth Court ruling last year. Corbett, formerly our state attorney general, claimed the Legislature has clear authority to override local zoning.
Such official regard for money over the rights of man 100 years ago led to the scarring and pollution of our land by unregulated strip mining by the coal industry. Yellow sulphur still lines the steams of many mining areas of Pennsylvania. Abandoned steam shovels still rust away.
The Supreme Court ruling is a "tremendous victory ... for local democracy, for public health and for the environment," said plaintiffs' attorney Jordon Yeager. Litigants were townships in Washington, Allegheny and Bucks counties and the borough of Yardley.