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As Gas Drilling Spreads, Towns Stand Ground Over Control

Date: 12/14/2011

SOUTH FAYETTE, Pa. -- As energy companies move to drill in densely populated areas from Pennsylvania to Texas, battles are breaking out over who will have the final say in managing the shale gas boom.

The fight, which pits towns and cities against energy companies and states eager for growth, has raised a fundamental question about the role of local government: How much authority should communities have over the use of their land?

The battle is playing out in Pennsylvania as the Republican-controlled legislature considers bills that would in their current form sharply limit a community’s right to control where gas companies can operate on private property. Critics say the final bill could vastly weaken local zoning powers and give industry the upper hand in exchange for a new tax, which municipalities badly need.

The legislation has struck a nerve in a state where land control has long been considered quintessentially local.

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Jeff Swensen for The New York Times

Dianne Krivonick and her daughter, Lily, 10, moved this year to South Fayette, Pa. Last month, the township rejected a Marcellus Shale driller’s complaint about a zoning law.


Jeff Swensen for The New York Times

Newbury Village is a new development in South Fayette, near Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania legislation could limit how it and other towns regulate drilling operations.

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