Oil and Gas Trade Group Seeks to Jail Elected Officials Who Dare to Protect Civil and Environmental Rights



Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania Community Organizer

Mercersburg, PA: It’s the sound of a desperate industry, and the saber-rattling has been echoing for a couple of years. Unable to control communities through lawsuits and intimidation, the entitled bullies behind the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) are coordinating a new front to pursue criminal charges against elected officials who dare to uphold their oaths to protect the health and safety of their communities.

Let’s be clear: An oil and gas trade association is seeking to jail and fine elected officials who do not kiss the industry’s ring.

Grant Township, PA, is in Mr. Moody’s crosshairs. Grant Township Supervisors and residents have been working with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) since 2014 to protect their community from a frack wastewater injection well threatening the Township’s water. The people’s most recent step: legalizing direct action in order to safeguard their water.

PIOGA’s puppet, attorney Kevin Moody, acknowledges this tactic as extreme, but has faith that the special privileges that the industry enjoys will allow it to withstand any criticism: “’There could be some backlash,’ Mr. Moody acknowledged. But that’s nothing new for the industry.”

Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania Organizer for CELDF, said, “Let’s talk about the real criminals here. The corporations that PIOGA represents continue to violate permits at will, which is the definition of breaking the law. Those who continue to wreak destruction on the health of the environment and our communities are the ones who should be jailed.”

In addition to suing Grant Township for damages, PIOGA also submitted, in court filings, that there is “no constitutional right to be free” from the harms associated with oil and gas activities.

Elected officials in Grant Township are not deterred by these recent threats from Moody and PIOGA. Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Jon Perry stated, “I was elected to protect the health and safety of my constituents. Passing laws that protect our community from the harmful effects of an industry that wants to dump toxic waste in our Township is my duty. We’ve received threats and lawsuits from this industry over the past few years, and their inability to control us, and their desperation to stop us, is leading to increasingly unhinged behavior and rhetoric. If they’re ready for another round, then bring it on.”

Adds Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long, “Mr. Moody attends conferences, labeling elected officials in poor rural townships as criminals and oppressors for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the citizens who duly elected them, while making glib quotes about making Grant Township and its lawyers ‘feel some pain.’ I state unequivocally, that any decisions I have made or will make, on behalf of Grant Township were made in integrity to protect our water, our property values, and our residents. I hope that Mr. Moody is someday able to find some integrity as well.”

Fear and intimidation have been used repeatedly in history in efforts to stop grassroots movements. Officials who did not arrest alleged runaway slaves were fined, and aiding a runaway slave was a criminal act. Women voting illegally were imprisoned. African Americans sitting in “white only” seats on buses were arrested. People aided runaway slaves, voted, and sat in “white only” seats anyway.

Today, communities across the country recognize it is their civil, political, and environmental right to protect the places where they live. Criminalizing the act of protecting their communities will not stop them. The future of their communities – and the planet – depends on it.


Pennsylvania Communities Part of Growing Movement

Grant Township residents and other communities across the state are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building in the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.


Additional Information

For additional information regarding Grant Township, contact CELDF at info@celdf.org. To learn about the Pennsylvania  Community Rights Network, visit pacommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.


Additional Resources