CELDF

Newsletter: Momentum for Constitutional Change in Pennsylvania

The following is an excerpt from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s fall 2020 newsletter “Observing Revolution.” Email info@celdf.org to receive a hard and/or electronic copy of our newsletters.

In 2020, members of the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network engaged in a statewide outreach campaign to gather support for a state constitutional amendment to 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 slowly gathering support, including but not limited to Dale Borough of Cambria County, Carbon County Council of Government, Highland Township of Elk County, Grant Township of Indiana County, West Chester Borough of Chester County, Federation of Women of Indiana County, The Green Party, Lancaster, Conestoga Community Group, Warren Ad Hoc Environmental Group, Lancaster Against Pipelines, March on Harrisburg, Moms Demand Action, Chester County, among others.

The amendment was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2019 as House Bill 1813.

The following letter was sent to every municipality in the state. It has been edited for length.

Dear Fellow Municipal Officials,

We are the Board of Supervisors in Grant Township, Indiana County. We recently received good news that you might be interested in hearing.

You may have heard about our fight against a hazardous and radioactive frack waste injection well. It’s trying to be forced into our Township, against our will and the will of our residents. Our fight gets regular local news coverage, but has also received national and even global attention. We’ve been sued in federal court by the industry. We’ve been sued in state court by our own PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Yep, you read that right: our DEP is suing us for trying to protect the environment….

A few weeks ago, something major happened: the PA DEP reversed course, and rescinded the injection well permit they had issued to allow the frack waste dumping. The DEP cited our local, municipal law as good law to deny the permit. This is the first time in PA history, that we are aware of, where a locally-crafted law has been cited as the reason a PA state agency has denied a permit. It’s huge news for us….

There is a window of opportunity to take advantage of the DEP’s decision to uphold our local law. The more communities that stand up to return power to our municipalities, the more power we will have to do what’s right for all of us, as the elected officials who are sworn to protect the constituents who elected us….

Have you been told by your solicitor that you were ‘preempted’ or prohibited by state laws from protecting your constituents? Have you been threatened by an industry that you believe would be detrimental to your community’s health and safety?

A constitutional amendment was introduced into the PA House in 2019 that would give municipalities, like Grant Township, the powers they need to protect their constituents.

Signed,

Jon Perry (Chairman) Stacy Long (Vice-Chairman) Ron Jarvie (Supervisor)

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