Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Industry Advocates Argue for Act 13 Court Hears Pitch against Challenges to Gas Drilling Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Industry Advocates Argue for Act 13 Court Hears Pitch against Challenges to Gas Drilling Law

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA - Attorneys representing Pennsylvania and the oil and gas industry argued Wednesday for maintaining several sections of the state's drilling law that are being challenged after the state Supreme Court struck down key aspects of Act 13 last year.

The arguments before the Commonwealth Court focused on narrow issues. The validity of the entire law is not in question.

Instead, the challengers - who include municipalities, local officials, environmental groups and a doctor - argued that four sections of the law should be dropped or changed after the Supreme Court ruled in December that the law unconstitutionally limited local governments' right to say where oil and gas facilities can be located.

In their questions Wednesday, the judges probed the consequences and limits of the law's notification and disclosure rules that affect doctors, water well owners and drilling companies.

The state's attorneys emphasized that Act 13 provides for more disclosure than was required before the law was adopted in 2012, but the challengers said the law provides inadequate or unequal protection.

If the court strikes down a section of the law that limits what doctors can reveal about confidential drilling chemicals that affect their patients, the state would return to a situation where doctors and patients are not entitled to any of that information unless a company volunteers it, said Howard Hopkirk, senior deputy attorney general.

"That kind of takes your breath away, that statement," said President Judge Dan Pellegrini, who repeatedly said that the chemicals used to coax gas from wells are "essentially a big secret."

The law requires companies to disclose details about the chemicals they inject underground during hydraulic fracturing, but it allows exemptions for trade secrets. …

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