Legislative Update in Pennsylvania

October 2011Newsletters In the Zone

Senate Bill 1100 proposes to impose a natural gas impact fee and, as will be discussed in detail herein, provide for a model zoning ordinance.

As for the model zoning ordinance, the proposed purpose is:

  1. To optimize the development and use of the Commonwealth’s oil and gas reserves by increasing reasonable consistency in zoning and other municipal regulation,
  2. To foster expeditious and efficient handling of municipal oil and gas permitting procedures and
  3. To allow municipalities to enact regulations under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.

The proposed legislation would give the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission the authority to develop and adopt a model ordinance to fulfill the purposes of this section.

Interestingly, the model zoning ordinance shall do all of the following:

  1. Authorize oil and gas development as a permitted use by right in all zoning districts except residential districts. (The PUC may develop a model zoning ordinance that allows oil and gas development in residential zoning districts by conditional use or special exception with conditions dependent on the density of existing uses within the district and the isolation distances achievable in each residential district.);
  2. Authorize natural gas compression stations as:
    (A) A permitted use by right in all agricultural, industrial and commercial districts and
    (B) A conditional use in all other zoning districts; and
  3. Authorize natural gas processing plants as:
    (A) A permitted use by right in all industrial districts and
    (B) A conditional use or special exception in agricultural districts.

Additionally, the model zoning ordinance shall not do any of the following:

  1. Impose limitations on the hours of operation on drilling operations;
  2. Impose limitations on noise, light, height or security or fencing on drilling operations, natural gas compressor stations or natural gas processing plants if the limitations are more stringent than limitations imposed on construction activities for other similar land uses (The model zoning ordinance may include limitations on noise, light, height and security and fencing for equipment or processes that are unique to the gas industry and are rational, nondiscriminatory and reasonably defensible in the particular zone where they apply.);
  3. Have a permit review period for uses by right that exceeds 30 days for complete and responsive submissions;
  4. Impose restrictions on vehicular access routes for overweight vehicles except as authorized under:
    (A) 75 Pa.C.S. (relating to vehicles); or
    (B) The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code; and
  5. Regulate storm water, erosion and sedimentation control or grading where the use is subject to regulation by the department through an Erosion and Sedimentation Control General Permit or similar permit.

Furthermore, the proposal requires that an ordinance adopted by a county or municipality to regulate oil and gas shall not contain more stringent standards than the model ordinance adopted by the commission.

It will be interesting to see whether the proposed model zoning ordinance gains any traction.

For more information, please contact David H. Comer at 610.397.7963 or [email protected].

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