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Monday, November 16, 2015

CELDF: We Won't Help Community Pay Damages Stemming From Attempting Injection Well Ban

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been in the news quite a bit as a very active organization which has been behind the push for bans on oil and gas activity in many different towns.  It has been previously documented that the organization has no problem being involved in influencing community leaders to enact regulations banning fracking, injection wells, and the like, but is quick to leave the community to fend for itself when subsequent legal trouble comes its way.

Now there is a new example of how the CELDF operates.

From the Pittsburgh Business Times:
On Nov. 3, Grant Township residents voted to redesignate the township under the commonwealth’s Home Rule Charter designation. As part of its charter, it specifically banned injection wells. 
“The people of Grant Township spoke loud and clear: They have rights, and they will protect those rights,” said Chad Nicholson of the Mercersburg­based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which assisted Grant Township with the rewriting of its municipal laws. 
Whether or not rewriting municipal laws will keep injection wells out of the township is up for debate. Matt Burger, who leads the energy legal practice at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Pittsburgh, said it probably won’t. 
“What they’ve done has absolutely no impact on (Judge Baxter’s) analysis,” Burger said. What’s more, PGE and Grant township are still in litigation over more than $1 million in alleged damages PGE hopes to recoup. That case is going to trial in March. If Grant loses that case and is forced to pony up $1 million, it could be in real trouble. 
“Grant Township runs a substantial risk of having to declare bankruptcy,” said James V. Corbelli, an attorney and shareholder with Pittsburgh­based Babst Calland. “Despite that, they’re continuing to pursue this.” 
When CELDF’s Nicholson was asked if the nonprofit would pick up the tab if Grant Township found itself on the losing end of its federal case, he didn’t mince words. 
“We are providing legal assistance to the township at no cost,” he said. “Any damages awarded by the court against the township would have to be paid by the township.”
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