Ever since Governor Corbett was elected, whatever the gas industry wanted it received. One timeless lesson of the remarkable decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is to be careful for what you ask.
That is a lesson that the gas industry forgot in 2011, when it used its political muscle and Governor Corbett's unquestioning support, to ram through the Pennsylvania General Assembly Act 13. The gas industry got what it asked for and showed that it preferred to bully state government than be a good neighbor in municipalities across Pennsylvania.
The question now becomes, will the gas industry double down on its bully tactics and jam through another state law? Early indications are that it is likely to do just that!
Or will the gas industry head in a different direction that works with local governments, land owners, lease holders, and even those who experience negative impacts from gas drilling? This path requires more work, more restraint, more respect for the diversity of opinion across Pennsylvania. Working with neighbors means correcting mistakes without the need for suits, installing pollution controls that are the best, even when they cost a bit more in the short run, not drilling in some locations, and paying a drilling tax.
The gas industry must choose whether it will be the neighborhood bully. Attacking zoning once more will be doubling down on bully laws.
Paradoxically, the fact that the Governor will give the gas industry whatever it wants creates a trap for the industry itself. So far, the industry has consistently showed that it cannot discipline itself to be careful for what it asks. The temptation is just too great and over-reach is the result.
The ball is now back in the gas industry's court. Will it be more bully ball? If so, opposition to the gas industry, already significant, will rise and intensify. Be careful for what one asks!