Trout Unlimited filed an amicus brief yesterday in Pennsylvania Supreme Court, challenging portions of Act 13, the state law that regulates the state’s gas drilling industry. The brief challenges issues in the law relating to protecting coldwater resources and supports a lawsuit that says Act 13 violates parts of the state’s constitution.
TU is challenging two parts of Act 13: the first being that the law doesn’t allow municipalities to protect their natural resources and at the same time, takes power away from municipalities and instead gives the state all the power to regulate how close drilling can occur next to water resources.
Act 13 was signed into law in February 2012. The law included several Marcellus Shale regulations that included protection for water resources, including increasing setbacks between well pads and waterways and water supplies and prohibiting the storage of drilling wastewater in floodplains.
The law prevents towns from establishing where and when drilling can occur within their geographic boundaries and declares that the state’s environmental protection laws trump all local laws regarding environmental protection. For example, Act 13 prevents a town from establishing: (1) a greater setback between drilling activities and a high quality stream; (2) a prohibition from drilling in floodplains; and (3) special resource protection zones, such as riparian zones or headwater protection zones, etc.
Act 13 also included a provision that allowed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to waive setback requirements, without providing any guidance on when a waiver may or may not be granted.
For the past three years, TU has been engaged in advocating for stronger protections for Pennsylvania’s coldwater streams to limit impacts from gas drilling activities. TU has trained over 300 state residents to test their local waters for Marcellus-related effects through its Coldwater Conservation Corps.