Friday, October 16, 2015

U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania Invalidates Township Ban on the Disposal of Oil and Gas Waste

On October 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania partly granted and partly denied a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings to invalidate Grant Township’s Community Bill of Rights Ordinance prohibiting oil and gas waste disposal within the township’s borders.

In June 2014, Grant Township enacted an ordinance “establishing a Community Bill of Rights for the people of Grant Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, which prohibits activities and projects that would violate the Bill of Rights”, such as waste generated from oil and gas operations.

On August 8, 2014, Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) filed a complaint against Grant Township alleging that “[a]s a direct and proximate cause of Grant Township’s adoption of the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance, PGE will be precluded from operating the [injection] well for legally permissible injection purposes and will have to seek more costly alternatives for managing produced fluids.” Grant Township counterclaimed that PGE’s civil action violated “the inalienable rights of the people of its Township to ‘local community self government.’”

The U.S. District Court concluded that the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance is not preempted by the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, however, violates and is preempted by Pennsylvania law. Therefore, the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance is invalid and unenforceable.

Further information on this case is available at docket no. 1:14-cv-00209. 

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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