Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Reverses Denial of Conditional Use Permit Application for Shale Gas Development in Lycoming County

On September 14, 2015, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed a lower court’s decision denying natural gas well operations within the residential areas of Fairfield Township, Lycoming County.

In 2013, Inflection Energy filed a conditional use permit application to drill and operate an unconventional well within a Residential Agriculture District in Fairfield Township, Lycoming County. Despite concerns from some area residents that such project would affect their quality of life and property values, the Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township approved the conditional use application. The landowners filed an appeal of the Board’s decision before the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County.

The landowners disputed the interpretation of conditional uses within the Residential Agriculture District in the Fairfield Township Zoning Ordinance of 2007. Their main claim was that the Board failed to establish that developing unconventional wells was not compatible with residential development. On August 29, 2014, the Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of landowners holding that the Board’s decision “is vacated, set aside and reversed.”

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed the Court of Common Pleas’ decision and concluded that unconventional gas development was appropriate within the Residential Agricultural District because such development was similar to public service facilities and that landowners did not prove that it would alter their quality of life and property values.

Further information on the case can be found at

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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