Grant Township is advancing constitutional law in Pennsylvania while protecting its water and recognizing the rights of nature
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2020
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Pennsylvania Community Organizer
GRANT TOWNSHIP, INDIANA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: On Monday, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rebuked a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) attempt to dismiss Grant Township’s Home Rule Charter, calling DEP’s motion a “collateral attack,” and finding it was “without merit.”
The judge’s decision allows Grant Township to argue that local governing authority is necessary to protect the community’s constitutional rights in the face of harmful state oil and gas policies.
Since 2014, residents of Grant Township (pop. 700) have been threatened with a frack wastewater injection well. These wells are a toxic sewer for the fracking industry, known to receive radioactive waste and cause earthquakes.
In 2015, Township residents popularly adopted a Home Rule Charter (local constitution) containing a “Community Bill of Rights.” The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted in drafting the measure, which bans injection wells as a violation of the rights of those living in the township. It also recognizes rights of nature. In 2017, the DEP sued Grant, claiming the local charter interfered with its ability to enforce state oil and gas policy.
To reiterate: the Department of Environmental Protection sued Grant Township for trying to protect the environment.
“Grant Township realized that the DEP has no ear for hearing that a radioactive frack waste dump is a dangerous and bad project for a rural, poor community like ours,” said Grant Township Supervisor Vice-Chair Stacy Long. “DEP’s job is to permit a certain amount of damage, and then try to mitigate it after the damage occurs. That is unacceptable to the people of this community, and so we said ‘NO.’ And then we got sued by our own DEP. We’re glad our case continues.”
“We’re happy to continue to stand with Grant Township in the face of DEP’s bullying,” said Chad Nicholson, CELDF Pennsylvania Community Organizer. “Grant’s creative and staunch resistance to the industry and their own hostile state government has ensured that there is still no injection well in Grant. But the fight needs to continue until all communities, including Grant, are able to protect themselves from harmful corporate activities.”
On Sept. 17, 2019, a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (HB 1813) to secure powers for local governments to ban harmful activities such as injection wells.
The full court docket is available to view here.