Grant Township (PA) is not populated by a bunch of college-educated suburban liberals. Quite the opposite. But it’s become famous in environmental circles for a fracking NIMBY court case with national ramifications for community-inspired environmental crusading.
David V. Goliath (his real name) writes about the case in The New Republic:
Like most of exurban Pennsylvania, [Grant Township[ is also Trump country: In stark contrast to the so-called “urban liberals” of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, many area residents have long condoned, if not supported, domestic oil and gas extraction; oppose a ban on “fracking” in the state; and have a dim view of environmental regulation.
But something surprising happened after the Environmental Protection Agency approved permits in 2013 for the petroleum company Pennsylvania General Energy to place a fracking wastewater injection well in the area. Residents became a cause célèbre of progressive environmentalists by voting to create a Community Charter that, among other things, asserts the township’s right to create its own environmental regulations and bans injection wells within the township. “You will get sued, and you will lose,” PGE lawyers in crisp suits warned residents before the first vote in 2014, Aaron Skirboll reported for Sierra magazine. Residents voted almost unanimously in favor anyway. “Our ordinance is passed,” a township supervisor said to the corporate attorneys. “You boys know where we’re at. If there’s a problem, go at it.”
PGE did indeed sue, as did the state Department of Environmental Protection. Both parties argue that only the state—not any individual municipality—has the authority to regulate oil and gas development. Grant residents doubled down, filing a counterclaim against the DEP and voting to legalize nonviolent direct action against any state or corporate entity that infringes upon the community’s right to self-government. The message was clear: That injection well is going in over our dead bodies. Eight years on, the legal showdown seems headed for trial in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court (a preliminary hearing occurred in April).
What’s at stake is the well-being of not just Grant’s 700 residents but democracy itself.
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