A Pennsylvania appellate court last week struck down zoning provisions regulating the natural gas industry in a ruling that it said was to protect municipalities and homeowners from dangerous, unfettered industry development.
In a nutshell, the ruling said the zoning provisions in Act 13 violated the state constitution by upending municipal zoning rules that had previously been followed by other property owners.
The ruling is seen as a victory for municipalities' zoning powers and a setback for the gas industry.
We don't mind the victory, but hope it isn't a setback for the natural gas industry.
While Gov. Tom Corbett defends the law because he said it better protects the environment, provides revenue to local communities and gives regulatory certainty to both landowners and job creators, we understand the sanctity of municipal zoning.
The court disagreed with Corbett by a margin of 4-3, but no one should disagree with the need to have a safe, thriving natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.
This natural gas drilling boom is much more competitive than people realize and if Pennsylvania is seen in its traditional light of being business-unfriendly a well-earned reputation it will eventually be left behind by the industry.
The state, which is appealing the ruling, needs this business, even with its warts, for the economic vitality it creates.
We don't advocate a recklessly out-of-control industry, but as long as the drilling can be done in an environmentally safe way that fits into local zoning provisions, it is a plus for employment roles and a revenue generator on multiple fronts.
We know there are opponents of this industry that will never concede those facts.
So be it.
The reality is Pennsylvania would be much worse off economically in 2012 without the natural gas drilling boom and the boom has been environmentally supervised with care, as it should be. There's room for both.