Pennsylvania court ruling raises the debate on fracking, land-use governance, Rabe says

August 6, 2012

In a blog for The Brookings Institution, Barry G. Rabe said a state appellate court's decision to strike down key provisions of Pennsylvania's shale gas legislation could be a sign of things to come.

In February, Pennsylvania passed legislation to regulate the extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. According to Rabe, the "far-reaching legislation dramatically shifted one major form of land-use from local to near-total state control." The appellate court agreed, saying the state could not prevent local authorities from imposing their own restrictions on fracking in their jurisdictions.

Rabe writes, "Invariably, the state will appeal and the battle will continue in Harrisburg and elsewhere. But this case serves as a reminder that many basic governance issues related to shale gas are largely in state hands. Surveys suggest that the citizens of Pennsylvania would prefer a very different state policy approach, though they are generally supportive of continued pursuit of shale gas development."

Rabe, a professor of public policy and the environment at the Ford School, is a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution.