Ferlo bill would restore zoning authority under Act 13

Legislation on April 29 by State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Highland Park) would change Pennsylvania's Act 13, which relates to the regulation of oil and gas drilling.

Under Ferlo's proposed legislation - S.B. 1359 - local municipalities would see their zoning powers restored. The bill would also implement a Marcellus Shale severance tax and strengthen health and environmental protections.

"Act 13 of 2012 has numerous shortcomings, some of which have recently been successfully challenged in court, and my bill hopes to right some of these wrongs," Ferlo said. "The current law fails to protect public health and safety, falls short on covering the actual costs of drilling, and undervalues the natural gas†the Commonwealth can produce; all issues that my bill addresses."

Ferlo said that the gas drilling industry in the state has made record profits while Pennsylvania residents have "been forced to tolerate" policies under Republican Governor Tom Corbett that have benefited the industry instead of taxpayers.

According to Ferlo, the bill would bring in $775 million in revenue based on gas production numbers for the state last year. Ferlo said the current impact fee charged to oil and gas drillers under Act 13 does not compensate for the effects on roads and services or the environment.

"The local fee component in the law is insignificant and grossly undersells Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale resources," Ferlo said. "My legislation would do away with this inadequate fee structure, and impose a more robust severance tax similar to every other major gas producing state in America."

The bill would also reinstate the authority of local governments to enforce zoning laws. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a related portion of Act 13 that affects the ability of municipalities to control land use was unconstitutional because it violates the Environmental Rights Act amendment.