Grand jury: State failed to protect public from fracking

“We believe that our government often ignored the cost to the environment and to the health and safety of the citizens of the commonwealth in a rush to reap the benefit of this industry,” the report says.

“I can assure you, there will be more to come,” — PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Shapiro also urged legislators to increase oversight of the industry, which he said for too long has been given a “free pass” to do as it pleases.

“They acted as though they are unaccountable,” Shapiro said. “That is what the powerful do when left unchecked.”

https://www.thetimes-tribune.com/news/grand-jury-state-failed-to-protect-public-from-fracking/article_8bb9eea0-ebe4-5949-879c-e1cf57e8685d.amp.html

Letter from Grant Township Supervisors Sent to All 2700 Municipalities in Pennsylvania

DEP Cites Local Ordinance to Revoke PGE Injection Well 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.

Grant Township Supervisors

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.

It’s a lot for us to take on. We’re a small rural township of 700 people. But we’ve continued to uphold our oaths to protect the health and safety of our community. We’ve had good support along the way, from hundreds of individuals, as well as nonprofits which include the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and the PA Community Rights Network.

A few weeks ago, something major happened: the PA DEP reversed course, and rescinded the injection well permit they had issued to allow the frack waste dumping.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.

And could also be huge news for you. We are sending this letter to point out that as an elected, you know how often your hands are tied when it comes to making local laws that protect your community, keeping in mind your community’s special circumstances. Harrisburg is fantastic at making cookie-cutter laws that don’t look out for the best interests of most PA communities.

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.

For more information for how you can help, and/or do this in your community, please contact us at:

GRANT TOWNSHIP 
Board of Supervisors
100 East Run Road
Marion Center, PA 15759
724-254-1530 
swl@catsupgraphics.com

Jon Perry, Chairman, Grant Township Board of Supervisors
Stacy Long , Vice-Chair
Ron Jarvie, Supervisor


Letter from Pennsylvania Community Rights Network

Dear Municipal Officials,

We have been proud to support Grant Township during their courageous effort to protect their community. We, as members of the PA Community Rights Network, have also heard from dozens of other municipalities across the state that want more power to deal with local issues than they currently have.

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. The text for that amendment is on the reverse side of this letter.

For more information on the amendment, and/or to support Grant Township, please contact us at:

Pennsylvania Community Rights Network
info@pacommunityrights.org
207-541-3649


HOUSE BILL 1813

INTRODUCED BY OTTEN, SCHLOSSBERG AND KENYATTA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in declaration of rights, providing for right to local self-government.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby resolves as follows:

Section 1. The following amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania isproposed in accordance with Article XI: That Article I be amended by adding a section to read:

§ 29. Right to local self-government

(a) As all political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness, the people have an inherent and inalienable right to local self- government.

(b) The right to local self-government includes, without limitation, the power to enact local laws:

(1) protecting health, safety and welfare by establishing the rights of people, their communities and nature and by securing those rights using prohibitions and other means; and

(2) establishing, defining, altering or eliminating the rights, powers and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community, to prevent infringement of locally enacted rights and violation of the prohibitions and other means by which those rights are secured.

(c) Local laws adopted pursuant to subsection (b) shall not be subject to preemption by international, Federal or State laws, provided that a local law does not:

(1) infringe or restrict fundamental rights of individuals, their communities or nature secured by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Pennsylvania or international law; or
(2) minimize protections for health, safety and welfare provided by international, Federal and State law.

(d) All provisions of this section are self-executing and severable.

The Other Side of the Story–Pennsylvania General Energy vs. Grant Township Federal Court Case

[Editor’s Note: The following was originally published in The Guide, a direct-mail weekly normally filled only with advertisements and want-ads. However, The Guide is sometimes used in Warren County to publish clarifications and rebuttals that address the “other side of the story” left out of articles published in the local newspaper, the Times Observer. In this instance, on April 4, 2019, the Times Observer published “PGE reduces legal fees in Grant Township case“. The article focused on Warren-based PGE’s seemingly merciful reduction of legal fees sought in their federal suit against Grant Township, but neglected coverage of the Township’s perspective. When the Grant Township authors of this article requested that the Times Observer provide more fair and balanced coverage, or even publication of a Letter to the Editor, they were denied. So a Grant Township citizen group, The East Run Hellbenders Society, paid to have the following published in The Guide on May 20, 2019.]


The Other Side of the Story Pennsylvania General Energy vs. Grant Township Federal Court Case

On April 4th, the Warren paper provided a brief report on this case, presenting an expression of support for the plaintiff (PGE), as front‐page “news”. The ongoing case, along with other facts, was not considered to be newsworthy, apparently.

We are the defendant in the case, representatives of Grant Township. Here is an explanation of the serious issues involved: We are defending our local right to block an oil and gas wastewater disposal well here using our right to self‐government. Our residents voted to adopt a Home Rule Municipal Charter which gives our community a broad right to self‐government. Our Home Rule Charter prohibits radioactive oil and gas waste dumping via injection wells in our township in order to protect residents’ fresh water wells. (There is no common township water supply; we all maintain our own wells for our own homes.) We also value our streams and the wildlife that depend on the streams including game fish and the eastern hellbender salamanders’ habitat. We believe PGE’s harmful project will ruin the watershed for Indiana County, as PGE’s record for environmental violations ranked 11th as a fracking company with the most violations of rules meant to protect the environment and public health*. It will be a slow poison for everyone. After our first ordinance to support local community rights was passed unanimously, PGE, the gas drilling company headquartered in Warren, brought suit against Grant Township in federal court. PGE asked the court to rule that protecting the community’s rights violated the corporation’s civil rights. While the case continued, the U.S. District Court has consistently ruled in PGE’s favor.

However, our case remains very much alive because of our Home Rule Charter. As in Warren’s own Home Rule Charter, this is law established by the people, not by the township officials. Judge Susan Baxter recently ordered our township to pay the legal expenses of PGE. The$103,000 order hits our township—a township too rural for streetlights, sidewalks and public water‐‐that must make ends meet on an annual $140,000 budget. Township Supervisor Jon Perry wrote to the court last year that Grant Township’s general fund revenue, mostly from property taxes, was projected at $147,000 and its general operating expenses were projected at $138,000, leaving less than $9000 before taking into account a $16,000 general fund deficitfrom the previous year. Other money that the township receives is restricted to specific uses, like road and bridge maintenance.

Grant Township does not have the means to pay attorney’s fees to PGE in any amount – not $500,000, not $100,000, and not $1000”, he wrote. Our county commissioners and our township’s state senator and representative also asked the court not to punish the township “for taking actions they believed were in the best interests of the community they represent”.

The idea that our rural township has damaged PGE is astonishing. What we are doing is fighting back – BEFORE the harm of the proposed project hits our residents. This court’s rulings so far have indicated a preference for protection of the corporation’s “civil” rights above our inalienable rights as human beings. When and if the water is contaminated in Grant Township, our only recourse would be to depend on the DEP or “sue the operator”. Neither of those scenarios protects our health, safety and welfare, but our Charter does.

As of today, there is no injection well in Grant Township. As of today, the Home Rule Charter that our residents voted for remains on the books protecting our health and safety. We will continue to carry out our sworn duty to protect the welfare of this community.

You are welcome to join us in protecting our communities, by contacting us at Grant Township Municipal Building, 100 East Run Road, Marion Center, PA 15759.

* Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Oil and Gas Management, Oil and Gas Reports, December 2016.

Respectfully submitted,

Jon Perry, Chairman, Grant Township
Stacy Long, Vice Chair, Grant Township
Ron Jarvie, Supervisor

“[Original article in The Guide] Paid for by The East Run Hellbenders Society”