— Comes as Industry Sues Township, Claiming it has a Corporate “Right” to Inject Frack Wastewater


Stacey Schmader
Administrative Director

GRANT TOWNSHIP, PA:  Today, for the first time, an ecosystem in the United States filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend its own rights to exist and flourish.

Rights of the Little Mahoning Watershed were secured in law by Grant Township (Indiana County, PA) in June.  The Grant Township Supervisors enacted a Community Bill of Rights ordinance, establishing the rights of human and natural communities to water and a healthy environment – including the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish – and bans frack wastewater injection wells as a violation of those rights.

The watershed filed a motion to intervene in Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) v. Grant Township, in which PGE is suing Grant Township to overturn the Bill of Rights.  PGE claims that the Bill of Rights violates the constitutional right of the corporation to inject frack wastewater in the township.

Pennsylvania communities are increasingly threatened by injection wells, which are used to store fracking waste, endangering drinking water and local aquifers.  Injection wells have also been linked with earthquakes in neighboring Ohio.

PGE sued Grant Township in August, followed by a unanimous vote of the Grant Township Supervisors to defend their Community Bill of Rights ordinance, and to retain the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) as legal counsel to defend the ordinance.

The Little Mahoning Watershed is joining with the East Run Hellbenders Society in filing the motion to intervene.  The Hellbenders – a local grassroots group – participated in the drafting of the ordinance.

CELDF Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, Esq., stated, “This lawsuit, brought by the the gas industry to overturn a democratically enacted law, threatens the rights of both human and natural communities.  This represents the first time an ecosystem is seeking to defend its legally enforceable rights to exist and flourish by intervening in a lawsuit.”

Linzey added, “Communities across the country have established the rights of nature in law.  They recognize that we cannot protect the environment with environmental laws that legalize fracking and other harmful activities.  Communities are recognizing the rights of nature in law as part of a growing understanding that a fundamental change in the relationship between humankind and nature is necessary.”

Since 2006, communities in Pennsylvania and around the country have recognized the rights of ecosystems and natural communities in law with the support of CELDF.

Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights.  This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish the rights of nature in law – as well as assisted Ecuador to draft rights of nature provisions for its constitution in 2008 – as well as the first communities to elevate the rights of communities above the “rights” of corporations.


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