Also, In Ironic Charade, PGE Appeals Its Own Permit



Chad Nicholson

Mercersburg, PA: Last month, in a revealing display of state power being used to protect corporate interests, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sued Grant Township (Indiana County) and Highland Township (Elk County) to invalidate parts of their Home Rule Charters. The Charters ban frack wastewater injection wells.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted the small, rural Townships in drafting their rights-based charters. Grant and Highland residents sought to protect themselves from fracking injection wells, which threaten drinking water supplies and have caused earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma. Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and Seneca Resources are trying to site injection wells in Grant and Highland, respectively.

The DEP claims that the Charters interfere with state oil and gas policies, and thus should be invalidated.

Last week, Grant Township responded to the DEP’s lawsuit, denying that the agency has sole authority to make decisions about harmful projects like injection wells. In the same filing, Grant Township countersued the DEP, asserting that its actions violate the rights of the community and the Charter. The filing declares, “The DEP has failed and is failing to protect the people’s health, safety and welfare,” and “the Charter is a constitutionally valid exercise of the people’s right to clean air and pure water.”

Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long said, “There’s a reason the DEP is referred to as ‘Don’t Expect Protection.’ We’re not going to be bullied by their lawsuit, and we’ll protect our community if the DEP won’t. I took an oath to protect my community, and those aren’t just pretty words like those fronted by the DEP.”

Meanwhile, last month, just before suing the Townships, the DEP also issued a permit to PGE, attempting to legalize the dumping of frack waste within Grant Township. PGE has a history of permit violations. Ironically, PGE has now appealed its own permit, claiming that certain conditions imposed by the DEP, such as seismic monitoring, are unlawful and unreasonable.

CELDF’s Chad Nicholson said, “PGE is claiming the DEP lacks authority to impose certain conditions. The DEP is trying to assert authority over the Townships, as well as PGE. And yet the decision has already been made – the people of the Township have already spoken at the ballot box: ‘No injection well.’ It is the people of Grant who are the legitimate decision-makers, and who have the authority here. CELDF is proud to continue to stand with them.”

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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