Supervisors back off illegal and illegitimate attempts to remove Water Authority members


Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin

Chad Nicholson

Highland Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania: On November 9, 2016, shortly after voters approved a new Home Rule Charter for the municipality, Supervisors in Highland Township attempted to replace the entire board of the municipal Water Authority. The Supervisors lacked the authority for such an action, as outlined in a cease-and-desist letter delivered last week to Highland Township’s lawyers.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) drafted the letter on behalf of the Water Authority. CELDF has been working with Highland Township residents since 2013, when the Township was endangered by Seneca Resources’ plan to site a frack wastewater injection well within the Township. Injection wells pose a threat to drinking water.

Harassment of the Water Authority continued throughout December, as Highland Township staff failed to open the Township building for a regularly scheduled meeting of the Water Authority. In addition, as a result of the Township’s unlawful interference, ongoing controversies exist in regards to the Water Authority’s bank accounts.

Township Supervisors harassing the Water Authority is yet another example of recurring actions that are contrary to the best interests of the community. In August, the Supervisors bargained away the rights of Township residents by brokering a deal with Seneca Resources behind closed doors to settle a lawsuit. The deal was made against the wishes of residents.

Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, a CELDF attorney representing the Water Authority in an ongoing appeal from the previous lawsuit brought by Seneca, said, “The actions of the Supervisors appear to be more akin to a coup attempt rather than the proper conduct of elected officials. Their behavior is an insult to the excellent work that has been carried out by the Water Authority, and is an affront to the people of Highland Township who expect better from their Supervisors.”

At the Township’s reorganization meeting last night, the Supervisors backed down, acknowledging that the existing Water Authority members are the legitimate officeholders.

Seneca Resources recently filed yet another lawsuit against Highland Township. CELDF is assisting the community’s continued fight for clean water.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Highland Township, contact CELDF at

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.

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