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Breaking News and Toxic Secrets: Groups Oppose Act 13 on the 13th

February 12, 2013

This is a national scandal in which corporations write Orwellian laws designed to crush democracy at the local level; a statewide betrayal in which impacted people are left without clean water or public health protections; and a local action all rolled into one.

On Wednesday February 13th 2013, from 4:30 pm to 5 pm, Protecting Our Waters, Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and supporters will join together at the LOVE statue at LOVE Park in Philadelphia to spell out, “Corbett LOVEs Fracking.”

Please join us at LOVE Park, 1501 JFK Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102 right before 4:30.

Although ACT 13 was signed into law one year ago, the drama surrounding it keeps escalating daily. The backdrop is two major ongoing court battles. One is forging forward in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has yet to decide on Governor Corbett’s appeal against the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s declaration last summer that  Act 13’s municipal pre-emption clause, which stripped municipalities of the right to zone, regulate, pass moratoria or bans on gas drilling operations, was “unconstitutional and unenforceable.” Another is Dr. Al Rodriguez’ lawsuit against the gag order requiring physicians to avoid disclosing any health-harming “proprietary” (secret) fracking chemicals for the purpose of protecting public health.

Another background factor specific to Philadelphia: state Sen. Anthony Williams broke ranks with Democrats and voted for the pro-fracking Act 13, claiming later that Republican Sen. Scarnati had twisted his arm. Shortly after that debacle, Senator Williams’ wife went to work in public relations for the fracking industry lobbying group, Marcellus Shale Coalition.

In a wave of dissent across Pennsylvania, 89 municipalities passed Resolutions supporting the legal challenge against Act 13, and/or supporting the Commonwealth Court decision declaring Act 13’s municipal pre-emption clause unconstitutional.

Three breaking stories this week show how Act 13 continues to add injury to insult to injury:

Act 13 Impact Fees Withheld from Impacted People

Both the intention and the letter of Act 13 regarding the Impact Fee mandate that any money received under §2314 be spent on those impacted by “natural gas production from unconventional gas wells.” Marcellus Outreach Butler, a grassroots organization in western Pennsylvania, is raising a hue and cry because the Impact Fee money from Act 13 is being “hijacked,” for the general fund instead of helping people who’ve completely lost access to clean safe water as a result of shale gas drilling in Butler County.

Protecting Our Waters supplied clean safe water monthly to three of the most vulnerable among dozens of impacted families in Butler County, for ten months throughout 2012, thanks to generous donors scraping the bottom of their pockets to help these families. We are absolutely outraged that $1.1 million in impact fee money in Butler County is not going to provide clean safe water for these impacted families. Why should Pennsylvanians impacted by shale gas drilling become environmental refugees while impact fee money goes into the general fund?

Please sign the Change.org petition to redress this situation, confronting Rep. Brian Ellis, one of the original authors of Act 13, about the dire situation faced by families in the Woodlands, Connoquenessing Township, Butler County — his own district!  The eloquent petition also goes to Butler County Commissioners and Connoquenessing Township Supervisors.

ALEC Involved in Writing Act 13

Who really wrote Act 13? Was it merely oil and gas lobbyists pushing PA legislators around? In “Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13, Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally and ALEC Model Bill,” DeSmogBlog writer Steve Horn reveals,

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative, Republican Party-centric “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations, according to CMD…

A close examination suggests that an ALEC model bill is quite similar to the recently overturned Act 13. 

It is likely modeled after and inspired by an ALEC bill titled, “An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation.” This Act was passed by ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at its Annual Meeting in August 2010 in San Diego, CA.

The model bill opens by saying that “…the planning and zoning authority granted to rural counties may encourage land use regulation which is overly centralized, intrusive and politicized.” The model bill‘s central purpose is to “grant rural counties the legal authority to abandon their planning and zoning authority in order to transition to decentralized land use regulation…”

In Orwellian language, the bill “gives” local municipality the “authority” to “abandon their authority,” or in plainer language, the bill strips them of their rights altogether and crushes democracy as we know it. In the process, the bill uses the language of “decentralization” to actually take away decentralized democratic rights and put those rights in the hands of huge corporations, defended by the state. Desmog continues,

The key legal substance of the [ALEC model] bill reads, “The local law shall require the county to repeal or modify any land use restriction stemming from the county’s exercise of its planning or zoning authority, which prohibits or conditionally restricts the peaceful or highest and best uses of private property…”

In short, like Act 13, this ALEC model bill turns local democractic protections on their head. Act 13, to be fair, is a far meatier bill, running 174 pages in length. What likely happened: Pennsylvania legislators and the oil and gas industry lobbyists they serve took the key concepts found in ALEC’s bill, ran with them, and made an even more extreme and specific piece of legislation to strip away Pennsylvania citizens’ rights.

PA Taxpayers on Hook for Over $550,000 of Gov Corbett’s Legal Fees

Incredibly, Governor Corbett, in his desperate attempt to serve his industry friends — the same ones who bankrolled him in his 2004 Attorney General campaign, the same ones who gave him at least 1.8 million in his more recent gubernatorial campaign — has spent over half a million bucks appealing the Commonwealth Court decision which overturned Act 13.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, when asked to allow industry lobbyists to represent the fracking industry in Governor Corbett’s appeal, said: no thanks, Governor Corbett himself is representing the industry, so no further representation is needed.

That leaves Pennsylvania taxpayers actually footing the legal bill for a governor hell-bent on taking away the rights of the only authorities which are making any attempt to protect Pennsylvania’s people from poisoned water, poisoned air, devastated land, fracking flowback waste pits, flaring, venting, frac sand clouds, and the accidents, spills, and explosions accompanying every stage of drilling from well pad construction through pipeline drilling. That is to say, our municipal officials. We the people are bound to pay the bill for this governor’s attempt to hand over our municipal officials’ rights to corporations.

See “PA Legal Bills Exceed 550,000 in Dispute Over Shale Drilling,” by Laura Olson in yesterday’s Post-Gazette.

Feb. 13th. Love Park. 4:30. Be there. Overturn Act 13. No toxic fracking secrets. And don’t forget the Change.org petition, “Don’t Steal $1.1 million from 30 families with contaminated water

For more information: Protecting Our Waters Executive Director Iris Marie Bloom (215) 840-6489

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2 Comments
  1. February 12, 2013 12:18 pm

    Very well said, Iris, as usual. Orwellian, indeed. Good luck with the action. Any time you want to go to Harrisburg and hang some mournful black crepe over the name “Rachel Carson” on the front of the building with the Don’t Expect Protection Department and its Secretary Krancer are headquartered, just give me a call.

  2. February 12, 2013 2:04 pm

    The depth of corruption is mind-boggling! Sometimes I feel so naive, knowing as much as I do about fracking, yet still stunned by the influence the gas industry has over the rights, or lack of rights, of citizens. I’ll be with you in spirit on the 13th.

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