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Press release updated 090514


Chad Nicholson, PA Community Organizer

GRANT TOWNSHIP, INDIANA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: Last night, Grant Township Supervisors voted unanimously to defend their Community Bill of Rights ordinance banning fracking wastewater injection wells against a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE). The company claims it has a “right” to inject fracking wastewater within the Township.

On June 3rd, the Township adopted the Community Bill of Rights to protect residents’ rights to local self-government, pure water and clean air, by banning corporations from depositing oil and gas extraction waste as a violation of those rights. Pennsylvania communities are increasingly threatened by injection wells, which are used to store fracking waste, and which endanger drinking water and local aquifers. Injection wells have also been linked with earthquakes in neighboring Ohio.

Township Supervisors, after voting to defend the rights-based ordinance rather than surrender their community’s rights, also voted to retain the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) as legal representative.

Grant Township Supervisor Jon Perry summed up the Board’s position, saying “Our duty is to protect the health and safety of Grant Township residents. We’re defending the ordinance.

PGE’s complaint argues that the Community Bill of Rights ordinance is unconstitutional because it violates the corporate “person’s” civil rights under the 1st and 14th amendments, as well as the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. PGE asks the court to force the Township to pay damages for violating the corporation’s civil rights, and to force the Township to pay for the corporation’s legal fees.

Township residents assert otherwise. They argue that Grant Township’s Community Bill of Rights secures legally enforceable rights for members of the community and affirms that those rights are superior law.

Grant Township resident Judy Wanchisn said “Our Declaration of Independence tells us that we’re born with unalienable rights, and protecting those rights is why we create governments. We stand behind our Supervisors in their decision to defend our community’s rights.

Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania organizer for CELDF, declared that “CELDF is proud to assist the people of Grant Township to assert their right to local self-government, and their right to clean air and water.”

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a public interest law firm assisting communities across the country in grassroots organizing to assert Community Rights to democratic local self-governance, to recognize the Rights of Nature, and to create sustainable communities through local law-making. CELDF has assisted more than 150 communities in drafting laws that protect community members from harmful corporate activities such as shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, and corporate water withdrawals. These local bills of rights also eliminate corporate “rights” at the municipal level when they violate community rights to clean air and water, local self-governance, and the rights of nature.