The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in late 2013 striking down as unconstitutional several portions of a law amending the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act and instituting an industry-friendly framework for hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking) sent shock waves through the business and legal communities invested and interested in this lucrative and controversial method for extracting gas from the ground. Beyond its immediate impact on Pennsylvania’s regulatory regime for fracking, the court’s decision in Robinson Township, Washington County v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013), is certain to influence the debate over fracking in other shale-rich states, like New York and California, and in states without any known or readily accessible shale reserves, like Massachusetts—a state that is currently debating a proposed legislative ban on fracking and the storage of fracking waste. Recent developments in the debate over whether to ban fracking in these four states are representative of developments unfolding across the country and reflect the deep-rooted debate over the economic and environmental consequences of fracking.
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