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A Reckoning for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Posted By Penny Seipel, Vice President of Public Affairs, Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, January 29, 2016

Over the past few years you have heard those of us at the OOGA write about the antics of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) which has tried numerous times to get “Community Bills of Rights” passed in cities and counties across Ohio as well as other states.  These Community Bill of Rights suggest that nature and ecosystems have rights, that businesses operating legally in the state have no rights, that these local government ordinances supersede any state or federal law and that citizens of the community can just shut you down if they believe you or your business are in anyway harming nature.  Crazy right?  Especially considering some of these ideas go against well-established legal precedents previously decided by the United States Supreme Court!

It looks as if CELDF has goaded a local government into legally defending one of these Community Bill of Rights one too many times.  A business in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania General Energy LLC (PGE) went to court defending its ability to convert an existing gas well into an injection well, which it got the appropriate permits from the state and federal governments to do, against Grant Township who claimed that because the citizens of that township passed the Community Bill of Rights, their right of local self-government trumped all other forms of government and PGE was therefore not allowed to drill or operate an injection well.  PGE filed suit against Grant Township in August of 2014.  In the suit, which is proceeding in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, No. 1:14-cv-00209, PGE sought injunctive and declaratory relief to invalidate the Ordinance, as well as damages for the costs it incurred by having to dispose of wastewater at other locations. 

In an October 14, 2015 ruling, the court agreed that the Ordinance overstepped Grant Township’s authority, as granted to it by the Pennsylvania legislature under the state’s Second Class Township Code.  The case was continuing forward to determine if PGE was entitled to any damages.  On October 26, 2015 Grant Township filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the October 14, 2015 ruling.

On January 15, 2016 PGE filed a motion for sanctions against Grant Township and their legal counsel, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund for their frivolous legal claims and defenses. 

We, and many others in the oil and gas industry, will be anxiously awaiting the decision in both these matters.  If the court rules in favor of PGE, perhaps the CELDF will finally be held accountable for the snake oil they have been selling to communities across the country. 

Baker Hostetler breakdown of the case thus far can be found here:

January 15, filing by PGE found here:

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