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A few weeks ago, something major happened: the PA DEP reversed course, and rescinded the injection well permit they had issued to allow the frack waste dumping.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

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection revokes permit for frack waste injection well in Grant Township

Sign: Vote Yes for Home Rule. Another sign: No Toxic Waste
Photo by Keith Boyer, the Contently Foundation

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection enforces local Grant Township law in revoking permit for dangerous frack waste injection well

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revoked a permit for a frack waste injection well in Grant Township. DEP officials cited Grant Township’s Home Rule Charter banning injection wells as grounds for their reversal.

Township residents popularly adopted a Home Rule Charter (local constitution) in 2015 that contains a “Community Bill of Rights.” The Charter bans injection wells as a violation of the rights of those living in the township and recognizes rights of nature. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted in drafting the Charter.

In 2017, DEP issued a permit to legalize an injection well in Grant, and simultaneously sued the township. The agency claimed that Grant’s Home Rule Charter – which protects the local environment – interfered with the DEP’s authority to administer state oil and gas policy.

Yet, in a stunning about-face, DEP enforced Grant’s law and rescinded the injection well permit, last week. “Grant Township’s Home Rule Charter bans the injection of oil and gas waste fluids,” the DEP writes. “Therefore, the operation of the Yanity well as an oil and gas waste fluid injection well would violate that applicable law.”

Since 2014, Township residents have faced a variety of intimidation tactics, including lawsuits, from the corporation behind the injection well (Pennsylvania General Energy based in Warren, Pennsylvania), the oil and gas industry, and their own state government and agencies. They have not backed down, even in the face of potential municipal bankruptcy. They have continued to assert and protect their community’s rights. 

“We are over the moon that the permit was rescinded,” said Grant Township Supervisor Vice-Chair Stacy Long. “However, we know the permit should never have been issued in the first place. We can’t forget that DEP sued us for three years, claiming our Charter was invalid. Now they cite that same Charter as a valid reason to deny the industry a permit. It’s hypocritical at best. Add this to the pile of reasons Grant Township did not trust the DEP to protect our environment, and why we’ve had to democratically work at the local level to protect our community.” 

“This decision does not validate the actions of the DEP, but rather vindicates the resistance that communities like Grant have engaged in to force governmental agencies into doing the right thing,” says CELDF Pennsylvania Organizer Chad Nicholson. “DEP has been acting in bad faith. I’m glad they revoked the permit. But it took them too long to do what all governments should be doing: enforcing democratically-enacted local laws that protect public health and safety.” 

Grant Township is aware that the industry and/or state agencies, such as DEP, may sue them again.

As of today, there is still no injection well in Grant Township.