I trust you have all had a good Christmas holiday and are looking forward to the New Year with hope and optimism.
The quote at the beginning of this e-mail is the complete text of Article I, Section 27 of the PA Constitution. It is also the subject of the documentary film "Generations Yet to Come," which was produced by the NPR reporting project StateImpact PA and PBS station WITF in Harrisburg, and which was locally screened by Marcellus Outreach Butler (MOB) on Dec. 15 at the Butler Public Library.
For those of you who were unable to attend MOB's presentation (which also featured a wonderful reading of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax by Ms. Leslie Stauffer and a visit from Santa Claus!), a trailer for this most hopeful film is available for viewing here.
What impressed me most about this film is that it showed how Article I, Section 27 -- the Environmental Rights Amendment -- is not just some lofty ideal to which the state may choose to aspire if it so chooses. It is a statement of the legal RIGHT of every Pennsylvanian to a healthy environment! A right on equal footing with the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, and the much-ballyhooed "property rights" by which people lease their land for natural gas extraction.
The film notes how the PA courts -- particularly the state Supreme Court -- are finally starting to take this amendment seriously, particularly in the face of widespread shale-gas drilling and the attempted Act 13 anti-zoning land grab for the drilling industry. It showed the courts' attempts to balance the rights of mineral leaseholders with the rights of other residents who are being negatively impacted by rampant shale-gas development.
But, as has often been shown throughout history, sometimes "we the people" have to fight for our rights, even those that have been expressly given to us. As former state representative Franklin Kury, the chief architect of Art. I, Sec. 27 when it was passed in 1971, says in the film: "The Constitution is only as good as the people who want to support it..."
And so we, the residents of Butler Township, may in the coming year join the increasing number of Pennsylvanians turning to the courts in an attempt to gain some sanity amidst the rampant expansion of shale-gas drilling. The state says we have a right to a clean and healthy environment. The state Supreme Court has labeled shale-gas drilling an "industrial use." The state's municipal planning code calls for a separation of incompatible land uses via zoning. Industrial uses are not compatible with residential uses, yet Butler Township permits this industrial use -- and ONLY this industrial use -- to take place in our residential neighborhoods. This is the basis of our legal action, should the construction of the Krendale well pad be permitted by the township.
As of yet, Penn Energy Resources has not applied for a permit from the township. It could well be that Penn Energy merely pushed through a copied version of Rex Energy's original DEP permit application for Krendale in October as a matter of general housekeeping, and will await court decisions on residential-zone shale-gas drilling before moving forward with the Krendale project. Remember, Krendale's owners are still getting paid for every year the site is not drilled...
But we will not assume that Penn is holding off drilling Krendale pending court decisions. Section 27 will continue checking with the township via Right-to-Know requests re: the issuing of permits for Krendale. And of course you will be informed if such permits are issued and our legal action commences...
Thank you once again for your continued interest and support! I hope you all have a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2019! Blessings and goodness to you all...