CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) sees a recent ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as a possible advantage for West Virginia when it comes to future natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared major parts of Act 13, that state’s Marcellus shale drilling law which was passed in 2012, unconstitutional. The ruling was 4-2.
Among the provisions found unconstitutional was the one allowing gas companies to override local zoning laws. Before the Court ruling, the law limited the power of local governments to determine where drilling was permitted. Now, drillers will now face varying regulations throughout Pennsylvania.
“That opens up, in my view at least, an opportunity for folks to say, ‘Let’s go to West Virginia where we know what the rules are,’” said Kessler.
West Virginia’s Legislature approved a comprehensive Marcellus shale bill during a December Special Session in 2011. It set up a statewide regulatory framework for the Marcellus shale industry.
Kessler said the goal was to provide “predictability” within the industry. “I think West Virginia’s ahead of the game,” he said.
Last week, officials with two Pennsylvania agencies, the Public Utility Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection, asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider the decision.