Breaking News: Reading City Council Passes Resolution Opposing Act 13
On Wednesday, the Reading City Council voted unanimously to join seven other Berks County municipalities in passing a resolution against Act 13. The resolution opposes Act 13 in its entirety, but focuses on Act 13’s stripping of municipalities’ control over their own land and policies in relation to gas drilling.
According to the resolution, the Councils
“oppose the conveyance of special rights and privileges to the oil and gas industry, to the detriment of the rights and privileges of all others.”
In late March, seven municipalities, two towns, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a physician, and several others sued the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Public Utility Commission, and the state Attorney General’s office in an effort to roll back Act 13. Pennsylvania’s hard-fought Act 13, originally introduced as HB 1950 / SB 1100, was fiercely opposed by environmental groups and municipal officials alike. Set to become law in April, the wide-ranging Act 13 established minimal impact fees for drilling companies and imposed a gag order for physicians treating people suffering from of fracking-related illnesses. Most importantly for local governments, it takes away from local governments the power to forbid or restrict fracking.
Act 13, if implemented in its entirety, would overrule every ban, moratorium, and zoning law already carefully put in place by Pennsylvania municipalities to protect residents from toxic impacts to air, water, quality of life, and human health during every phase of high-volume shale gas drilling. As passed, it enables the fracking industry to build well pads and actively frack wells within 300 feet of homes and hospitals, private water wells and waterways, removing local control.
An uprising has ensued. In addition to the municipalities, towns, and organizations which filed the original suit, sixty-two municipalities have already passed the same resolution Reading City Council just passed this week.
In April, a judge granted a 120-day halt to the implementation of that aspect of Act 13 while the case was pending. The state then appealed to lift the injunction. Naturally, the shale drilling industry tried to join in on the appeal, but was shot down at the end of June by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled that the state of Pennsylvania was already a good enough representative of the industry’s interests. (Finally, we have it in writing!)
Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, is encouraged by the resolution’s passage:
“We have found that if [the resolution] is on the agenda, we get a vote that evening. Haven’t lost a vote yet. In fact, they’ve all been unanimous.”
Imagine the impact if every single Pennsylvania municipality joined in passing this resolution. How could the drilling companies and Pennsylvania government then still claim that they’ve had Pennsylvania citizens’ interests in mind?
Iris Marie Bloom, founder of Protecting Our Waters, cheers Reading City Council’s act and Berks Gas Truth’s work, saying:
“Standing up one by one against the anti-democratic stripping of our rights in Act 13, each municipality that adds its voice is protecting basic human rights and the environment at the same time. “
The complete text of the sample resolution is here. It’s short, it’s clear, and it meaningfully confronts an industry which appears to believe it can write the laws in Pennsylvania.