Pennsylvania Federal Court Strikes Down Ordinance Banning Disposal of Waste Water as Unconstitutional
In Pennsylvania General Energy Co. L.L.C. v. Grant Township, Magistrate Judge Susan P. Baxter of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in an unpublished opinion, held that several provisions of an ordinance enacted by Grant Township establishing a Community Bill of Rights were invalid or preempted by state law. The ordinance banned corporations from disposing of waste water from hydraulic fracturing within Grant Township.
Plaintiff Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) is involved in the exploration and development of oil and natural gas. In 1997, PGE drilled a deep gas well in Grant Township. In May 2013, PGE filed a permit application with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to convert the well into a brine-injection well. Upon learning of PGE’s permit application, Grant Township enacted an ordinance entitled Community Bill of Rights. The ordinance provided that corporations should not have more rights than the people of its community and that people have the right to regulate all activities pursuant to a right of local self government.
PGE filed an action challenging the constitutionality, validity, and enforceability of the ordinance adopted by Grant Township, arguing that the ordinance violated several state statutes, including Pennsylvania’s Second-Class Township Code—Grant Township is a second-class township—and Pennsylvania’s Limited Liability Companies Law. Further, PGE argued that the ordinance violated state law as an impermissible exercise of police power because it is exclusionary. Grant Township filed a counterclaim, alleging that challenging the ordinance violated the rights of the people to “local community self government.”