Updated July 7, 2017

An oil and gas corporation sued a community that is seeking to protect itself from frack waste…
Now the corporation is going after their lawyers


Corporation demands $560,000 from public interest lawyers that are defending community


Stacey Schmader
Administrative Director

MERCERSBURG, PA:  A major oil and gas corporation is suing the rural community of Grant Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, to overturn its protections against toxic frack waste. In the wake of the lawsuit, the corporation is now seeking payment of its attorneys’ fees from the lawyers representing the Township.

Pennsylvania General Energy Company, LLC (PGE) seeks to dump 152 million gallons of frack waste in Grant Township over ten years. The company admits that the waste, which will remain in the Township forever, will contain radioactive and toxic contaminants.

Seeking to protect itself from dumping, the community adopted a ban on frack wastewater injection wells. In 2014, PGE sued the Township, claiming that its corporate constitutional “rights” were violated by the ban.

PGE has now asked a federal court to force Grant’s lawyers from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) – who are representing the Township to defend its ban – to pay over a half million dollars to the company, to reimburse the company for monies it has spent in its three-year lawsuit against the small municipality.

CELDF is a non-profit, public interest law firm headquartered in Pennsylvania, which provides pro bono and low-cost legal assistance to grassroots groups and municipal governments. CELDF is representing the Township in this case.

Even though parts of the law were overturned by a federal judge last year, the company has continued to pursue the Township for damages and fees. The people of the Township recently reinstated the ban through popular adoption of a new home rule charter, which now serves as the governing document for the community. The company has not challenged the new charter, but certain provisions have now been challenged by the state itself, through Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The continuing conflict between the community and the industry was recently featured in Rolling Stone magazine: The Small Town That Fought Fracking.

CELDF’s Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, stated, “What is playing out in Grant is what has played out in thousands of communities across the United States – a resource extraction corporation sues a rural community, places industry call “sacrifice zones” – to force in damaging projects that the community doesn’t want or need. Knowing that Grant is too small to satisfy a money judgment against it, the company and its attorneys are now going after CELDF.”

Linzey further explained, “This lawsuit is about who actually governs our communities, and whether companies have more rights than the communities they seek to use.”

In response to the company’s recent filings, CELDF has informed PGE that it will be filing its own request against the company if the company does not withdraw its request.


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