Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rights of the PA Citizen: Clean Air and Water

Pennsylvania Constitution Article 1 Section 27:
"People have a right to clean air and clean water..."

It is becoming increasingly clear that we must look at banning fracking as a civil rights issue and there is danger and opportunity in this situation. Ben Price, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Attorney, laid it out very well in his meeting with
Murrysville citizens.

1st choice: Do nothing and get fracked.
2nd choice: Let the rules on the books work for you and get fracked.
3rd choice: Say that our rights actually do mean something and that, no, the state is acting beyond it’s authority and we say "No more!"

What we are told by our municipal council members is that the 3rd choice is really not one of the choices; that as members of a municipality we have NO RIGHTS AND NO AUTHORITY.

This is not true. Pittsburgh City Council passed a ban ordinance and is recommending that Pennsylvanians can JUST SAY NO! Doug Shields, Pittsburgh City Councilman and Ben Price have been able to draft the ordinance and resolutions that not only passed Pittsburgh City Council by a 9-0 vote but have the potential to be used by other Burroughs, Townships, and Municipalities throughout Pennsylvania.

It's time to tell our municipal leaders that they must use our rights as a municipality as our tool for civil rights because it is a guaranteed loss if we don’t! We can't negotiate this away.

What’s the quality of life to the residents of Murrysville worth? Our council needs to stand with us, not try to "understand" Range Resources or even laws that don't protect the citizens of Murrysville. If they don't understand this it is they who will have to live with the consequences. So which is scarier, folks? Demanding our right to say YES, we have rights to say NO and ban drilling in Murrysville or live with the consequences of drilling?

Some of the things we know: You lose the value of your property if you live in the vicinity of a fracked gas well. Gas wells must be re-fracked. The amount of water and the toll on our infrastructure is huge. There are documented cases of contamination. The way contamination is dealt with is to essentially purchase the homes of folks without water and hope they move way away.

What is increasingly clear is that the gas companies and the drilling industry consider water and people to be a nuisance and have made regulations that are guaranteed to get us out of the way.

In fact our quality of life is not important to this PA State administration who made and are making regulations as they considered drilling in our parks and what this meant to our recreation, the wildlife, hunting and fishing. No one asked what our Pennsylvania farms, dairies, grapes, and wine production meant to us or even considered how this would be effected.

In fact, they KNOW NO LIMITS. There really is no negotiating. There are no "best practices" and we need to move now.

The meetings we have had as citizens of Murrysville have been public and we have invited our municipal officers to attend. If they perceived this as a conflict of interest or saw this as not maintaining "neutrality", then they have let us down. It is time to say "you don't rule me" and we have to start, making this very public. It's Calls emails, pounding doors to tell our elected officials that this is illegal and unconstitutional no matter what the "regulations" say are steps we can all take. Preparing for hearings and council meetings is crucial.

As a matter of fact, the law itself can be subjected to a constitutional hearing if townships gather to say this causes harm and that State law is the problem. The question is: Can you, the State at the request of a corporation regulate my rights away? Can you really write a regulation to take my rights away? If we allow the drilling then we will have to fight this every day.

After the drilling is done we will individually have to fight big oil companies over our dead homes, land and water. It is far better to talk about property rights now and not allow chemical trespass. Ordinances will only ask the wrong questions that have to do with what happens after the damage is already done.

Let’s talk about property rights and make that case, 1 person one vote. We simply cannot be swayed by the largest home owner/land owner who stands to make some money. They don't get to make the law for my municipality and they are not vindicated by bad law. What is government for but for all the people? We are born with rights. We need to see them protected.

What we are fighting here is regulation by the legalized amount of licensed harm allowed by the corporation. Just because there is licensed harm allowed by corporations through bad law does not mean that folks should harm their neighbors because it is "legal". We need to talk to our neighbors.

We have worked to do! The only reasonable choice is to ban drilling. We have all the research, all the experts. We know things are not going to get better if we don't act.

So, hey Murrysville, you are wonderful and you are on your feet!

To learn more about the CELDF and the civil rights of municipalities pleas visit

the Chambersburg Declaration.