21.10.10

One community split over gas drilling

In Lehman Township, Pennsylvania, the community seems to be divided over the costs and benefits that natural gas drilling will bring. These uncertainties have brought about the "Lehman Township Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance" which has been drawn up Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and presented by the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition and signed by nearly half of the community. Citizens Voice reports that the ordinance came up for a vote on Monday, October 18th.
After two hours of discussion on subjects from hazards to residential water wells - including the fact that many of them have contamination issues even without any gas drilling - to whether natural gas drilling lowers property values, the supervisors failed to make a motion to move forward on the ordinance, or even to hold a special meeting for further discussion.

"They completely ignored the will of the people," Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition co-founder Dr. Thomas Jiunta said afterwards, noting that about 510 out of the township's approximately 1,200 residents had signed a petition in favor of the ordinance. "Basically, they (the supervisors) abdicated their responsibility."
But the issue is much more complicated. Regulations across the board, from federal and state levels, might make this ordinance impossible and even unconstitutional. Citizens Voice further reports:

Planning and zoning Solicitor Jack Haley said that in proposing that the rights of corporations be subordinated to those of individuals, proponents of the ordinance forget that Lehman Township itself is a state-chartered corporation.

Making the township and its people the top governing body could have unintendended consequences, Haley said. It could lead to secession not only from the state, but from the U.S., he said. Or it could be used to deny people their rights based on factors such as religion or ethnicity, or, by prohibiting pollution lead to a ban on cars.

This presents an enormous challenge to communities and their rights. Because they are subsumed within larger public bodies (counties, states, and the nation) they are subject to governmental laws, regulations, policies, and procedures that can overrun their local right to self-governance and self-determination. It may be that self-determination is not a right in these cases because, for example, "eminent domain" can be invoked by regulatory departments working with industries (pipelines, roads, or perhaps even gas wells themselves) have determined that it is in the interest of the largest body (state or federal levels) to put in the pipeline, road, or gas well. Local people's interests can lose.

Do you think that the ordinance should be passed?

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Overwhelmingly yes. The rights of corporations should never supercede the rights of individuals! EVER. This country was founded on the principle that it is "of the people, by the people and for the people." The operative word is PEOPLE.

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