2017-07-15 / Viewpoints


Perfect Park

Dear editor:

We had some long-time friends from Hinsdale and Olean, N.Y., visit us last weekend.

We traveled to the Austin Dam Memorial Park, where a crowd of people were sitting in the pavilion and Jordan Brewer was operating the Visitor Center/Gift Shop.

My friends were amazed at the dam ruins and took many pictures. They were astounded at the pictures hung in the pavilion depicting scenes of Austin before and after the 1911 dam disaster.

“I can’t believe this little town has so much history,” they said over and over again.

We spent some time talking to Jordan, who told us that that four honor students from the local school are operating the Visitor Center this summer. She said about 20 people had visited the park so far that day.

After browsing the merchandise, my friends bought a copy of Paul W. Heimel’s “1911: The Austin Flood,” which has dozens of pictures of Austin before, during and after the dam failure.

Austin Dam Memorial Association’s website is austindam.net. Please take the time to browse the site and visit the park. You will not regret it.

Bernard ‘Mike’ Fowler

Township Sued

Dear editor:

A major oil and gas corporation is suing rural Grant Township (Elk County) to overturn its protections against toxic waste from shale gas drilling. The corporation is also seeking payment of its attorneys’ fees from the lawyers representing the township.

Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) seeks to inject 152 million gallons of waste water underground over 10 years. The company admits that the waste will contain radioactive and toxic contaminants.

Seeking to protect itself, the community adopted a ban on such wastewater injection wells. In 2014, PGE sued the township, claiming that its corporate constitutional rights were violated by the ban.

PGE has now asked a federal court to force Grant’s lawyers from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pay more than $500,000 to the company, to reimburse monies it has spent in its three-year lawsuit against the township. CELDF is a non-profit, public interest law firm which provides pro bono and low-cost legal assistance to grassroots groups and municipal governments.

Even though parts of the law were overturned by a federal judge last year, PGE has continued to pursue the township for damages and fees.

The people of the township recently reinstated the ban through popular adoption of a new home rule charter. The company has not challenged the new charter, but certain provisions have now been challenged by the state itself, through the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection.

What is playing out in Grant Township has been played out in thousands of communities across the United States: a resource extraction corporation sues a rural community, places industry call “sacrifice zones,” to force in damaging projects that the community doesn’t want or need.

In response to the company’s recent filings, CELDF will be filing its own request against the company.

This lawsuit is about who actually governs our communities, and whether companies have more rights than the communities they seek to use.

Emelyn Lybarger
Outreach Coordinator

Wind Vs. Shale

Dear editor:

After recently reading your article, I pondered over the ongoing dispute in Hector Township between JKLM Energy and Big Level Wind (BLW).

Pennsylvania landowners have long had the ability to separate their rights -- surface from subsurface.

Those who signed leases with JKLM are happy having money in their pocket. The losers could well be the surface owners (if they are not one and the same). Surface owners have the same right to lease acreage, and have likely been paid by the wind energy company.

Public meetings being advertised in local papers would be enough to bring conflicting issues to the forefront and be addressed, but only if all rights owners lived close enough and read the newspapers.

Wanting to find favor with the court, it’s very likely JKLM and BLW have both overstated what they need to succeed. BLW can likely alter the placement of its turbines, just as JKLM can extend its lateral drilling for gas.

Whatever Judge Leete’s decision, I believe both sides will be fairly treated and both will have to make adjustments.

As for rights owners, they will have to be patient, and that can be challenging.

Janice L. Hancharick
Raleigh, N.C.

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