Posted by Tom Jiunta on November 15th, 2010
Recently, a group of concerned citizens and myself, attempted to submit an ordinance to the Lehman Township supervisors to help protect our clean drinking water and attempt self-governance, allowing us control over what types of hazardous activities we choose to allow in our communities.
We had scores of residents present and many more that had signed petitions agreeing to this water rights ordinance.
In fact, we had the consent, on notarized petitions, of close to half the voting residents agree to this ordinance.
When I asked our supervisors to agree just to advertise this ordinance and have a public discussion they refused to pass a motion to do so, and basically ignored the wishes of a large segment of their community they were elected to serve. We were given a condescending sermon by the township solicitor on why the little people need to go through the right channels rather than attempt to participate personally in the governance of their communities. He basically exaggerated the potential for problems and misconstrued the purpose of this ordinance.
I guess he does not agree with Article I, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which declares that “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness.”
If our state legislators were capable of passing a moratorium and do the appropriate studies to guarantee that hydraulic fracking for gas in the Marcellus Shale was safe before beginning this industrial activity then there would be no need to attempt this route of self-governance. We are tired of standing by while private water supplies are being contaminated on a regular basis by this activity, all the while being told how safe it is and our state politicians echoing the same platitude that, “We need to do it right.”
This process is not as predictably safe as the industry would allow us to believe.
This is why we need ordinary citizens to press their local officials to honor their oaths of office, which obliges them “to protect the health, safety and welfare” of their community.
By their response, our local township officials tell us that the voting public may not enjoy self-government in the places where they live. We know what we are doing. We are attempting to assert rights never surrendered to the state and declared in Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which asserts that rights belong to the people and are inalienable, and no government can legitimately deny them.
When the state acts to deny the rights of the people, it is the state and not the people who stand on the “wrong ground.” Self-government is being denied when the Oil and Gas Act of Pennsylvania, written under the influence of the oil and gas industries, develops “preemptive” laws. The people have the right and the duty to protect themselves, their communities, their families and the livability of their environment for future generations. Rights are higher law than state regulations. If we have no control over our local community governance then we really do not live in the democracy we think we do.
Dr. Thomas Jiunta