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

August 11, 2015

Chad Nicholson, PA Community Organizer
chad@celdf.org, 207.541.3649

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

Rights of the Crystal Spring Ecosystem were secured in law by Highland Township in Elk County, PA, in January 2013.  The Highland Township Supervisors enacted the 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 banning frack wastewater injection wells as a violation of those rights.

The ecosystem filed a motion to intervene in Seneca Resources Corporation vs. Highland Township, Elk County, PA, in which Seneca is suing Highland Township to overturn the Bill of Rights.  Seneca 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.

Seneca sued Highland Township in February 2015, followed by a unanimous vote of the Highland 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 Crystal Spring Ecosystem is joining with local nonprofit Citizens Advocating a Clean Healthy Environment (CACHE) and the Highland Township Municipal Authority in filing the motion to intervene. The Municipal Authority provides drinking water within the Township.

CACHE President Marsha Buhl stated, “This lawsuit, brought by a bullying corporation, is an attempt to overturn our community’s democratically enacted law. We will not stand idly by when it comes to protecting our water and our quality of life.”

Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania Organizer for CELDF, added, “Communities across the country are recognizing that we cannot protect the environment with environmental laws that legalize fracking, injection wells, and other harmful activities.  Communities such as Highland Township are recognizing the rights of nature in law as part of creating a new system that elevates rights for communities and ecosystems above the claimed “rights” of corporations.”

The Crystal Spring Ecosystem is the second ecosystem in the nation to file for intervention in a lawsuit to defend its own rights to exist and flourish; the Little Mahoning Watershed, which filed for intervention in Grant Township, PA, in 2014, was the first.

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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