The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, under investigation, is still suing Grant Townships for banning frack waste injection wells
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Chad Nicholson
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Pennsylvania Community Organizer
Grant Township, Indiana County, PA: On September 21, 2020, Grant Township filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP sued the township in 2017 for adopting a 2015 municipal Charter — a local constitution — that banned frack waste injection wells, known to contain radioactive waste and other toxic chemicals. The DEP, currently under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and FBI, issued a permit for an injection well within Grant Township in 2017, and sued the Township simultaneously.
The motion to dismiss, filed by Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) contract attorney Karen Hoffmann representing Grant, comes after an historic reversal by the DEP in March 2020 to rescind that frack waste permit, citing the very same Grant Charter it is suing to overturn.
The DEP has permitted an historic gas extraction campaign across Pennsylvania, leaving local communities to defend themselves and the environment from the industry. The township was also sued by the private corporation Pennsylvania General Energy for its defense of local ecosystems.
Documents unearthed through the discovery process in the Grant Township case shows the DEP has never denied an application for a permit that would allow, in whole or in part, the injection of fracking waste in an underground well.
“Of course we’re filing to dismiss,” says Grant Township Supervisor Vice-Chair Stacy Long. “The DEP brought this on and now it’s running away? How can there be a lawsuit against the Charter if the DEP now recognizes it as valid law? They should be embarrassed at the runaround they are giving us. The majority of our citizens here said NO to this project, knowing the adverse consequences would be our sole burden. We did the hard work and voted in a law to protect ourselves when no one else would, and here we are. That law is still good, and a state agency recognizes it as such.”
Long and other local government representatives are supporting a state constitutional amendment (HB1813) that has been introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, that would place the rights of people over the interests of private corporations and empower communities to heighten state protections for civil, human and ecosystem rights. It is gathering support from local governments and community groups across the state.
“Dismissing this bogus lawsuit is another step in stopping harmful activity by DEP, and clearing the path for a deeper examination of misconduct not just by the DEP, but our state government which passes preemptive laws and legalizes destructive corporate behavior. Communities are always on defense, fighting things off. It’s time we turn that around and push forward with a movement for change that protects all communities,” said CELDF Pennsylvania Community Organizer Chad Nicholson.
Grant Township is continuing its 2017 countersuit asking the court to declare that DEP has violated the Pennsylvania Constitution and Grant Township’s Charter by failing to protect the people’s right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the environment, and by attempting to prevent the people of the township from exercising and advancing their rights.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.