Mirabito Applauds Court Decision Restoring Private Property Rights

HARRISBURG, July 18 – State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming, applauded the Commonwealth Court opinion stating that the Public Utility Commission does not have the authority to review local drilling ordinances or to withhold impact fees from municipalities.

In December, the state Supreme Court declared parts of Act 13 of 2012 unconstitutional and told Commonwealth Court to decide remaining issues, which necessitated Thursday's ruling.

Mirabito noted that he voted against Act 13, even though it included the impact fee because it took away people's private property rights and local control of zoning.

"This ruling is a huge win for property owners because now local municipalities can now establish zoning rules related to drilling," Mirabito said. "Act 13 was a huge overreach and an attempt to allow drillers to use the PUC to force municipalities to allow drilling without any local controls."

The ruling settles the final four disputed sections of Act 13. In addition to the local zoning decision, the court also issued its rulings regarding the following issues:

· The court rejected a requirement that the state Department of Environmental Protection notify private water well owners about hazardous spills.

· The court upheld the right of licensed public utilities to use eminent domain to take property for the transportation, storage, transmission, distribution or furnishing of natural gas to or for the public.

· The court upheld the part of Act 13 prohibiting health professionals from disclosing hydraulic fracturing additives holding that the confidentiality provision is not a special law and it does not violate the single subject rule.

"I am concerned that DEP does not have to inform private well owners about spills," Mirabito said. "Overall, I am pleased the court restored private property rights and ruled that municipalities retain the ability to make local decisions about drilling."

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