Environment  
comments_image Comments

Court Strikes Down Parts of Pennsylvania's Act 13, a Law Deemed "The Worst Corporate Giveaway"

The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered municipal governments.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share
 
 
 

In short, like Act 13, this ALEC model bill turns local democractic protections on their head. Act 13, to be fair, is a far meatier bill, running  174 pages in length. What likely happened: Pennsylvania legislators and the oil and gas industry lobbyists they serve took the key concepts found in ALEC's bill, ran with them, and made an even more extreme and specific piece of legislation to strip away Pennsylvania citizens' rights.

There were many shale gas industry  lobbyists and those affiliated with like-minded think-tanks in the house for the Dec. 2010 San Diego Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force Meeting where this prospective ALEC model bill became an official ALEC model bill. They included Daren Bakst of the  John Locke Foundation (heavily funded by the Kochs), Russel Harding of the  Mackinac Center for Public Policy (also heavily funded by the Koch Family Fortune), Kathleen Hartnett White of the  Texas Public Policy Foundation (again, heavily funded by the Kochs), Mike McGraw of Occidental Petroleum, and Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center (a think tank that sits under the umbrella of the Koch Foundation-funded  State Policy Network).

A Model That's Been Passed and Proposed Elsewhere

The Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation model bill has made a tour to statehouses nationwide, popping up in Ohio, Idaho, Colorado, and Texas. The model passed in some states, while failing to pass in others.

Here is a rundown of similar bills that DeSmogBlog has identified so far:

Ohio HB 278

Long before the ALEC model bill was enacted in 2010, Ohio passed a similar bill in 2004,  HB 278, which gives exclusive well-permitting, zoning, and regulatory authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Ohio is home to the  Utica Shale basin.

Mirroring ALEC's model, HB 278  gives the "…Division of Mineral Resources Management in the Department of Natural Resources…exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells in the state.."

Could it be that the ALEC model bill was actually inspired by HB 278? It's very possible, based on recent history.

As was the case with ALEC's  hydraulic fracturing chemical fluid "disclosure" model bill (actually rife with loopholes ensuring chemicals will never be disclosed), ALEC  adopted legislation passed in the Texas state legislature as its own at its December 2011 conference.

Idaho HB 464 

Idaho's House of Representatives  passed HB 464 in February 2012 in a 54-13-3 roll call vote. A month later, the bill  passed in the Senate in a 24-10-1 roll call vote. Days later, Republican Gov. Butch Otter  signed the bill into law.

Key language from HB 464  reads

It is declared to be in the public interest…to provide for uniformity and consistency in the regulation of the production of oil and gas throughout the state of Idaho…[,] to authorize and to provide for the operations and development of oil and gas properties in such a manner that a greater ultimate recovery of oil and gas may be obtained.  (Snip)

It is the intent of the legislature to occupy the field of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production with the limited exception of the exercise of planning and zoning authority granted cities and counties…

The Democratic Party State Senate Minority Office was outraged about the bill's passage. 

"[HB] 464 establishes Idaho law governing oil and gas exploration and development including limits to local control over the location of wells, drilling processes, water rights and the injection of waste materials into the ground,"  reads a press release by the Idaho State Senate Minority Office. "[HB 464] preempts local land-use planning statute dating back to 1975. Counties will have little input in the permitting process whereby well sites are selected (or restricted) and no role in planning and zoning."

 
See more stories tagged with: