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Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Harveys Lake Council to Consider Banning Corporations from Drilling for Natural Gas

February 18, 2011

CELDF Press Release: Harveys Lake Council to Consider Banning Corporations from Drilling for Natural Gas

by CELDF
February 16th, 2011

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Pennsylvania Community Rights Network
P.O. Box 2016 Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 17201
www.celdf.org

Harveys Lake Council to Consider Banning Corporations from Drilling for Natural Gas

This ordinance isn’t only about gas drilling. It’s about answering the question “who decides?”

MEDIA RELEASE
February 16, 2011
CONTACT: Ben Price, (717) 254-3233
benprice@celdf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Tuesday, February 15, 2011)  Following comments from borough residents that lasted more than an hour, Councilwoman Diane Dwyer made a motion to introduce a bill that would establish a local communality Bill of Rights and, among other prohibitions, a ban on corporations drilling for gas in Harveys Lake. The vote on the motion to advertise the ordinance prior to a public hearing and final vote on adoption carried 3-2 at the borough’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night.

The vote was three in favor (Larry Radel, Carole Samson and Diane Dwyer) , two against (Fran Kopko and Ryan Doughton) and one abstention (Boyd Barber). During public comment, Borough resident Carol Culver addressed the Council first by stating that Councilman Boyd Barber has signed three leases with gas companies and should recuse himself from any vote on the topic. He agreed and did not vote on the hearing for the ordinance.

Community residents first approached borough council with the ordinance and a request for a hearing in August of 2010. Since then, requests for a hearing have been repeated at council meetings in November and December, to no avail, and the request was defeated by a 3-3 vote in January. Last night’s vote came following a community meeting on the measure, sponsored by borough residents and held at the Borough Hall on February 12th.

During last night’s public comment period, resident Rae Dziak, a shoreline property owner and local realtor, addressed the council saying that “property values will be zero if the lake is contaminated by the fracking process.” She also objected to “the arrogance of members of Council” who refused to be guided by the will of the people and consider the community rights ordinance.

At the heart of the ordinance is a local Bill of Rights that asserts legal protections for the right to water; the rights of natural communities; the right to local self-government, and the right of the people to enforce and protect these rights through their municipal government.

Among the prohibitions included to protect community rights in “Harveys Lake Borough’s Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance” are these statements of law:

It shall be unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas within Harveys Lake  Borough…It shall be unlawful for any corporation to extract water from any source, whether surface or subsurface, within Harveys Lake, for use in the extraction of subsurface natural gas… It shall be unlawful for any corporation to deposit waste water, “produced” water, “frack” water, brine or other materials or by-products of natural gas extraction activities, into the land, air or waters within the Borough of Harveys Lake…

The bill was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) at the request of community members.

During discussion on the motion to advertise, Councilman Larry Radle raised concerns about the ordinance, but ended up voting in favor of advertising it. He said there are three options for the Council to consider: do nothing, and likely get fracked; try to zone drilling and get fracked in those designated places; or adopt the community rights ordinance and maybe get sued, and then fracked.

During the public comment period, borough resident Neil Turner spoke to the issue of lawsuits saying that even if Council adopts a zoning ordinance that restricts drilling to certain areas, the harms would be experienced throughout the community, and if attorneys for drilling corporations objected to the zoning scheme they could sue the Borough demanding a curative amendment and if they prevailed in court, the results could be the same as having no ordinance at all.

Commenting on the proposed ordinance, community organizer for CELDF, Shireen Parsons stated, “this ordinance isn’t only about gas drilling. It’s about answering the question ‘who decides?’ Will executives for gas drilling corporations make governing decisions for Harveys Lake? Will the state issue permits against the will of the governed?”

Parsons urged all municipalities in Pennsylvania to enact similar laws “to send a message to Harrisburg,” that the state must recognize the fundamental right to local self-government.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.

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