Cases & Deals

PennEnergy successfully defends against landowner challenge to conditional use permit for natural gas operations

Client(s) PennEnergy Resources LLC

Jones Day represented PennEnergy Resources, LLC (PennEnergy) in a land use appeal brought by a township resident, who argued that the Board of Supervisors of New Sewickley Township erred in granting a conditional use permit to allow for the development of a natural gas compressor facility in an agricultural zoning district. The Township had previously adopted a zoning ordinance which allowed for gas exploration as a permitted use within agricultural districts, and which allowed compressor stations as a conditional use. Pursuant to this zoning ordinance, PennEnergy had entered into a gas gathering agreement with another company that applied for the conditional use permit and planned to construct and operate the compressor station on its land. In response, the resident advanced a traditional land use appeal, contending that the Board of Supervisors violated his due process rights in its consideration of the permit, and also asserted that the zoning ordinance which provided for the grant of the conditional use permit was unconstitutional under Robinson Township v. Commonwealth and ran afoul of the Municipalities Planning Code. After briefing and argument by Jones Day, the court ruled in favor of PennEnergy, finding that the township satisfied its legal and constitutional obligations in granting the conditional use permit, and that the farmer had waived his arguments attacking the substantive validity of the underlying zoning ordinance.

The challenging land owners appealed to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and alleged that the permits violated various statutory and constitutional provisions. After briefing and argument, the Commonwealth Court set down a lengthy opinion affirming the municipality and trial court in all respects, rejecting the plaintiffs' case in total, and preserving PennEnergy’s ability to develop natural gas resources.

Kretschmann Farm v. Township of New Sewickley, No. 11393 of 2014 (Ct. C.P. Beaver Cty., Pa.); No. 360 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commw.); In re Substantive Validity Challenge to Ordinances 192 and 194