On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** 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 town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.
The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”
Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.
“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”
Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.
That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.
The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?
The answer, in a word: ALEC.