Appalachian Basin

Anti-Fracking CELDF Files Motion to Intervene – On Behalf of the Ecosystem

Just when we thought we’d seen it all from anti-fracking groups — hazmat suits, gas masks, extreme outbursts at public meetings – it gets even more interesting. In a press release sent out late last week, Citizens Advocating a Clean Healthy Environment (CACHE) in conjunction with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)  actually filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit regarding a Pennsylvania injection well on behalf of the ecosystem.

As the CACHE/CELDF press release puts it,

“Today, an ecosystem in the United States filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit to defend its own rights to exist and flourish.

Rights of the Crystal Spring Ecosystem were secured in law by Highland Township in Elk County, PA, in January 2013.  The Highland Township Supervisors enacted the Community Bill of Rights ordinance, establishing the rights of human and natural communities to water and a healthy environment – including the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish – and banning frack wastewater injection wells as a violation of those rights.

The ecosystem filed a motion to intervene in Seneca Resources Corporation vs. Highland Township, Elk County, PA, in which Seneca is suing Highland Township to overturn the Bill of Rights.  Seneca claims that the Bill of Rights violates the constitutional right of the corporation to inject frack wastewater in the Township.”

If you thought this must be a joke, you’re not alone.  At first glance, the press release looks like a satire, especially since these groups have spectacularly failed to pass a number of local bans across the country.  In fact, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted just announced that anti-fracking “Community Bill of Rights” measures aren’t legal and won’t be allowed on county ballots this year. From the Ohio Secretary of State’s press release:

“The issue of whether local communities can get around state laws on fracking has already been litigated,” Secretary Husted said. “Allowing these proposals to proceed will only serve a false promise that wastes taxpayer’s time and money and will eventually end in sending the charters to certain death in the courts.” (emphasis added)

It’s yet another stunt in a long list of attempts by CELDF to, as Ohio Secretary of State Husted put it, “waste taxpayer’s time and money.” This time the victims are located in Highland Township, Pa.

EID Ohio recently lifted the curtain on the CELDF, describing a bait and switch campaign that would end with “taking away constitutionally-protected property rights, and then granting those rights to ecosystems.” Now, this activist organization is attempting to set precedent which could be detrimental not only to the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, but also to every other business large and small in the state. CELDF’s mission is

“Building sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.” (emphasis added)

And, in order to accomplish this they’ve taken the “right to govern” and packaged it into a “Community Bill of Rights” that includes extreme anti-development language that prohibits oil and gas development. It also goes after a host of other targets such as agriculture, mining, industrial wind production, retail chains, corporate operations of all shapes and sizes, and even major economic development projects. They even have a “Food Bill of Rights” campaign.

This actually isn’t even the first time CELDF has brought the ecosystem into the courtroom at the expense of taxpayers in Pennsylvania. In fact, in December 2014 the organization brought the ecosystem into an injection well lawsuit after Grant Township signed a Community Bill of Rights. According to the CELDF Executive Director Thomas Linzey in a Fox News article, the action was “the first time an ecosystem is seeking to defend its legally enforceable rights to exist and flourish by intervening in a lawsuit.”

So what would actually happen if the “ecosystem” were to “win” in one of these lawsuits? Just think about that for a moment. What happens when a farmer wants to build a new barn that involves removing some trees on the property? He might not be able to because that action removes the “right” of the ecosystem to flourish. What if a neighbor decides they don’t like another neighbor mowing their grass? It may sound extreme, but once this goes through it could stand up in court because the action removes the “right” of the ecosystem to flourish.

Think that sounds like a far-fetched theory? Here’s a quote from Linzey on property rights:

“If you are going to put all that work into a ballot initiative, why not do a ballot initiative that bans all finance companies in New York City from funding new projects that exacerbate climate change? Why not do something real…why not do something real…cause people are saying to themselves, ‘it would be illegal, it would be unlawful, it would be unconstitutional, because you are taking their property’ well..(expletive), it’s time.”

If the ecosystem becomes recognized as a legal body able to file suits, as CELDF desires, the rights of property and business owners go to the wayside. Nature will own your property, not you. And the precedent is now being set by an organization peddling illegal local bans as a guise to shut down businesses across the country at the expense of the taxpayers.


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