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Public Utility Zoning Post-Robinson Township: a Constitutional End-around or Infrastructure Imperative?


This Note examines infrastructure concerns pertaining to oil and natural gas operations in Pennsylvania. Beginning with the General Assembly's enactment of Act 13 in 2012, this Note details the subsequent development of regulatory oversight applicable to these operations. This Note examines how these regulations apply to oil and natural gas pipelines. It provides a holistic examination of Act 13 and the comprehensive exemptions from local zoning law the Act extended to oil and gas operations. It then explains the reasons the Act's broad zoning mandates were held unconstitutional under the Environmental Rights Amendment in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Robinson Township v. Commonwealth decision.

This Note argues that exempting these same operations under Pennsylvania's Public Utility Code is not unconstitutional. While Act 13's exemptions operate in a similar manner, the Note explains that exempting operations on a case-by-case basis is the approach most tailored to the Court’s decision in Robinson Township.