DEP Issues Permits to Polluting Corporations; Simultaneously Sues Communities to Overturn Bans on Frack Wastewater Dumping



Chad Nicholson

Mercersburg, PA: On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued permits to two polluting corporations. The permits signify the DEP’s approval of Seneca Resources and Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) injecting toxic frack wastewater into Highland Township (Elk County) and Grant Township (Indiana County).

The permits are in direct violation of democratically-enacted Home Rule Charters in both Townships. The charters were drafted with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). They established local constitutions that define not only government structure, but also rights and protections in the communities. Highland and Grant’s charters prohibit the depositing of frack waste as a violation of the communities’ rights to clean air and water.  Residents adopted the measures because injection wells threaten drinking water supplies and have caused earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma, leading to their shut down.

On Monday, the DEP also sued both Townships, claiming the charters unlawfully interfere with state oil and gas policies.

Let’s be clear: our state agencies, tasked with “environmental protection,” are legalizing harmful activities by issuing permits to corporations with histories of violations. And, they are doing so against the will and sovereign law of the people who live in the community. Equally egregious, those state agencies are now suing communities who dare to stand up to unjust laws that privilege corporate interests above the communities’ health and safety. The meaning of “corporate-state” has never been more clear; it is painfully obvious whose interests our state agencies serve.

Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long said, “Our community wrote a new constitution, with wide community support and input, to protect our rights and our environment. And now we’ve been sued, not only by a corporation that wants to profit by dumping toxic waste in our community, but also by our own state ‘environmental protection’ agency. Our fight continues, but we also hope that the latest shameful actions by the DEP inspire others to stand with us, and stand up in their own communities, against unchecked corporate and state power.”

CELDF is proud to continue standing with both communities to resist efforts by Seneca, PGE, and the DEP to violate the rights of the people of Highland and Grant Townships.


Pennsylvania Communities Part of Growing Movement

Pennsylvania residents and their local representatives are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across 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 and Highland Townships, 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.

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