Frivolous, Expensive Lawsuit by Township Supervisors Demonstrates Why Home Rule Needed


Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania Community Organizer

Ridgway, PA: Yesterday, a judge approved a motion to allow the Highland Township Government Study Commission (GSC) to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Highland Township Supervisors.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been working with Highland residents since 2013, when the Township learned of a frack wastewater injection well project. CELDF is providing the GSC legal counsel.

In April, voters in Highland Township elected the GSC to consider whether the current form of municipal government – a Second Class Township – works to adequately meet the needs of the community. The GSC voted unanimously that the existing form of government excludes the people from important decisions facing the community, and thus wrote a Charter to remedy the deficiencies. A Charter is akin to a local constitution.

That Charter would, among other things, prohibit frack wastewater injection wells, ensure fair taxation, and allow Township residents to democratically enact laws through an initiative process if the Township Supervisors fail to adequately represent the people.

The proposed Charter was duly qualified, and is to be on the November 8th ballot. Yet Township Supervisors brought the current lawsuit to keep Township residents from even voting on the proposed Charter.

CELDF Attorney Natalie Long said, “We’re pleased with the decision of the Court today, allowing the GSC to join the litigation to bring a defense in this case. This lawsuit is nothing more than a Hail Mary pass by the Supervisors, who know that they will be held accountable for irresponsible decisions if voters pass the Home Rule Charter in November.”

GSC Chairman John Guras noted, “Our Supervisors were entrusted to work on behalf of we the people, and to protect the finances of the Township. Yesterday’s decision reveals this is a frivolous lawsuit, wasting taxpayers’ resources in pursuit of a case with no merit. The actions of our Supervisors demonstrate why we need Home Rule in Highland Township: to give the power back to the people, and bring accountability to our Township government.”


Pennsylvania Communities Part of Growing Movement

Highland 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 Highland Township, contact CELDF at To learn about the Pennsylvania  Community Rights Network, visit To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit


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