Late last month, a federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania struck down a township’s ban on fracking activities. The ban, which prevented the injection of fracking waste into a well underlying the town, was preempted by state and federal law, said the judge.
The judge ruled that the ban was preempted by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Act 13, which prevents municipalities from passing ordinances that regulate oil and gas activity except through limited channels, namely the state’s Municipalities Planning Code and Flood Plain Management Act.
The ban, part of the municipality’s “community bill of rights,” was adopted in 2013. It was conceived in response to a resource corporation’s plan to store fracking waste beneath the township.
The corporation’s waste storage plan received EPA approval in 2014, and with that approval the corporation challenged the township’s ban in federal court. The township came under new leadership in 2016 and stopped defending the ban, but voters last November adopted a similar measure.
The judge, despite the township’s unwillingness to defend the ban, examined its merits. Two nonprofit organizations attempted to defend the ban in lieu of the township.
The town is Elk County’s Highland Township in the northwest part of the state.
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