In A Town's Fight Against Gas Drilling, Preemption is Key

October 23, 2017
Garrett D. Trego

Western District of Pennsylvania Magistrate Judge Susan P. Baxter reiterated in an opinion issued recently that certain municipal laws prohibiting natural gas drilling are preempted by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. Seneca Res. Corp. v. Highland Twp. et al., No. 16-cv-289 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 29, 2017) (“Seneca III”).

The decision is the result of a complex procedural and political history in the township, and it reinforced an earlier settlement and consent decree between the same parties. In its opinion, the federal court provided guidance regarding the interplay among federal, state and local authority over energy development in Pennsylvania.

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