GRANT TOWNSHIP, Pa. – After a district court judge issued an opinion effectively supporting hydraulic fracking within Grant Township, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry celebrated the role that the energy market has played in the state’s development.
“Natural gas has revitalized Pennsylvania’s economy, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and lowering energy costs for consumers,” the chamber's Government Affairs Manager Kevin Sunday said.
The court’s decision comes after a two-year battle between Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and Grant Township. In 2013, PGE filed a permit application with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to convert its deep gas well into a hydraulic fracking well. The Grant Township countered by enacting the Community Bill of Rights ordinance in 2014 to prevent PGE from disposing of wastewater from fracking.
The ordinance gave individual people the right to regulate all activities relevant to their right to self-government, based on the township’s argument that the right to local community self-government is “deeply rooted in [the] nation’s history and tradition.”
Sunday said the state already has “some of the strongest regulations in the country” when it comes to oil and natural gas. The ordinance added more legislation to these requirements.
PGE filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, claiming that the town’s action was unconstitutional, violated state law and was preempted.
The court issued judgment in favor of the plaintiff, deciding that Grant Township presented “no precedential statute or constitutional provision authorizing its actions other than its assertion that Plaintiff has no rights… because it is not a person.” The court then cited more than 100 years of Supreme Court precedents that establish corporations as “persons” under the United States Constitution.
Additionally, the court struck down the ordinance’s provisions prohibiting corporations from depositing waste from oil and gas extraction within Grant Township, and declaring invalid any permit to do so issued by a state or federal entity. The court held that as a Second Class Township, Grant Township was only granted the powers expressly given to them. The authority to regulate water and oil gas well waste, and the authority to invalidate state or federal permits is not expressly given to Second Class Townships.
The court also said that the ordinance violated Pennsylvania law by banning a legitimate business.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry believes that it is economically important to promote the natural gas industry, but acknowledges the need for proper infrastructure.
“Moving forward, we need to focus on developing the needed infrastructure to get natural gas to market – cementing Pennsylvania’s status as a world-class energy hub and improving the commonwealth’s competitive edge,” Sunday said.