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Article published November 13, 2012
Roll back big govt.
Jason BellEvans City
Who knows your community best? State government executive and legislative officials in Harrisburg would have you believe that they do. Over the loud objection of many local governments and citizens, on Feb. 14 Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Act 13, which stripped local municipalities of their rights to zone within their borders, forcing local residents to allow oil and gas drilling, processing and pipelines in all zoning regions, including in residential areas and next to schools. In short, decades worth of carefully thought-out local zoning laws put in place to safeguard the health, safety and character of our communities were erased with the stroke of a pen. It seems people are starting to realize the full scope of this power grab. In July, Commonwealth Court declared the zoning provision of Act 13 unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors has come out in opposition to the provision. So have more than 65 local governments, including four in Butler County. When the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) withheld nearly $1 million in impact fees in an apparent retaliation against the municipalities that challenged Act 13 in court, Commonwealth Court again had to rein in big government by issuing a cease-and-desist order. The court declared that the PUC has no authority to review local gas-drilling ordinances. The Corbett administration, the General Assembly and state agencies have overstepped their bounds time and time again by putting the profits of oil companies over the people and the laws of the commonwealth, and I for one am happy that the courts are rolling back their power grab.