State and Local Elected Officials Defend Township’s Right to Protect Itself
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chad Nicholson, PA Community Organizer
GRANT TOWNSHIP, INDIANA COUNTY, PA: Last month, Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) continued its harassment of Grant Township, attempting to recover more than $100,000 from the Township in attorney’s fees. In 2014, Grant Township enacted a Community Bill of Rights banning fracking wastewater injection wells as a violation of the community’s democratic and environmental rights. PGE sued the Township to overturn the ban. Township Supervisors and community members have been united in their stand against PGE and their determination to protect their water.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted in the drafting of the Community Bill of Rights and has represented the Township to defend the ordinance.
Last month’s filing was the latest attempt by PGE to threaten the Township with bankruptcy in a four year David and Goliath battle. Township Supervisor Jon Perry indicated the Township does not have the funds to pay the corporation’s attorney’s fees, stating that paying those fees would mean the Township “would not be able to pay salaries, maintain roads, or perform critical government functions. Grant Township does not have the means to pay attorney’s fees to PGE in any amount.” If Grant Township is required to pay those fees, they will face financial bankruptcy in addition to the threat of environmental bankruptcy from PGE’s proposed fracking wastewater injection well.
Pennsylvania elected officials representing Grant Township residents also recognize the injustice of the corporation’s efforts to recover attorney’s fees from the Township. State Senator Don White, State Representative Cris Dush, and Indiana County Commissioners Sherene Hess, Rod Ruddock, and Michael Baker, signed a letter that was submitted to the court, stating:
“The disposal of fracking waste continues to be a significant issue in Pennsylvania…Grant Township has pursued avenues to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their community in an effort to respond to constituent concerns, but it has come at a significant cost. Grant Township would be faced with severe financial hardship or bankruptcy should the Court compel its citizens to pay for legal fees they did not choose to incur…. Grant Township should not be punished for taking actions they believed were in the best interests of the community they represent.”
In a declaration filed with the court, Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long states, “We have done our research. We know of the dangers posed by fracking and fracking waste. We know that PGE has an awful record of environmental violations. We do not understand how we are the ones that could be punished when we are protecting our residents’ civil rights. The right to clean air, water, and soil. Can you imagine if all of your water came from a well or spring that you privately maintain, that is fed from groundwater under and around your home. If there were plans to inject toxic and radioactive fracking waste underground near your home and in your community’s creeks and springs and its watershed, how could you just let it happen? We cannot give up.”
Pennsylvania Communities Part of Growing Movement
Pennsylvania residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit 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. Pennsylvania joins state Community Rights Networks in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Ohio, where residents are advancing Community Rights state constitutional amendments.
For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network, visit pacommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.
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.