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Ohio Utica Shale

Pennsylvania asks high court to reconsider ruling on drilling laws

By Bob Downing Published: January 3, 2014

From the Associated Press:

By Mark Scolforo

Lawyers for two state agencies on Thursday asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider its decision last month that struck down key components of a state law that regulates natural gas drilling.

The Public Utility Commission and Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion with the justices that argued that parts of the court’s main opinion would benefit from scientific and scholarly evidence and that the court also should take another look at how much of the law will remain in force.

Lawyers for those who successfully sued to challenge the law said they will oppose the Corbett administration’s request.

The justices threw out significant portions of the law, which instituted impact fees and limited the power of local governments to determine where the gas industry can operate.

The filing by the two state agencies said the court record did not contain sufficient facts regarding a balancing test to determine if the 2012 law violates Section 27 of the state constitution’s declaration of rights, a provision referred to as the Environmental Rights Amendment.

“This court issued its own factual findings on appeal, where the trial court made no findings of fact and only one side had presented a modicum of evidence,” the agencies argued. “Fundamental fairness to a co-equal branch of government, as well as adherence to this court’s precedent and established procedure, mandates that the commission and the department be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present evidence.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said reconsideration requests are a long-shot under any circumstances.

“It really strikes me as nothing more than sour grapes,” said attorney Jordan Yeager, noting the justices considered the case for more than a year after it was argued before them. “Clearly they gave it full consideration.”

Another plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jonathan Kamin, said the new filing demonstrated that the agencies have “an inappropriate stake” in the gas drilling law.

“When would you ever see a body charged with protecting the environment … ask for less standards?” Kamin said.

The administration’s lawyers argued to the high court that a three-justice opinion written by Chief Justice Ronald Castille made a number of “sweeping factual conclusions” that had no basis in the court records.

Among them, they said, are that the drilling will hurt the environment, that the law will have an immediate and disruptive effect on how people live and that it “alters existing expectations of communities and property owners.”

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

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Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

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Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

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