Matthew J. McHugh, Esquire
In February 2012, Governor Corbett signed into law Act 13 which set forth statewide regulations for oil and gas operations in the Marcellus Shale formation. One of the most controversial provisions of Act 13 required municipalities to amend their Zoning Ordinances to permit oil and gas operations in every zoning district. A number of affected municipalities and other public interest groups decided to challenge the Act 13 legislation. On July 26, 2012, the Commonwealth Court issued an Opinion declaring Act 13 unconstitutional. Specifically, the Commonwealth Court found that requiring municipalities to permit oil and gas operations in every zoning district was a violation of due process. The case is currently pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Regardless of the outcome of the Act 13 litigation, the majority of residents in Bucks and Montgomery County do not have to worry about any oil or gas operations in their area for the foreseeable future. As part of the 2012 budget, the Legislature imposed a 6 year moratorium (until January 1, 2018) on the issuance of well permits for oil and gas operations in the South Newark Basin. The South Newark Basin covers the majority of Montgomery County and nearly all of Bucks County except for a small portion of southern Bucks County. As part of the moratorium, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will be conducting tests to determine the impact and viability of oil and drilling operations and will ultimately render an opinion.