Not only do I represent as part of my legislative district, but I’ve also lived here most of my life, so it’s fairly easy to stay informed about what’s happening around town.
Like most people, I take pride in my hometown, and in Cecil’s case, that pride is well-earned, with documented evidence. Last year, —certainly an accolade worthy of pride.
But a lot can happen in a year, and in Cecil’s case, a lot has.
The township passed several ordinances over the past few years to deal with the impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling activity. To be crystal clear, the township never attempted to ban drilling activity, just provide for some reasonable assurances for the residents. It was proactive and addressed issues such as compressor stations and seismic testing requirements, which was totally within its rights.
When the Legislature passed Act 13 earlier this year, many of Cecil’s ordinances appeared to be heading for the scrap heap as the state pre-empted most of the municipality’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations. ; in fact, Cecil’s solicitor did the legal work at no charge to Cecil taxpayers.
injunction that delayed the implementation of Act 13 while the court heard the case. A driving force behind the injunction was the insistence of
Coupled with so many Marcellus-related businesses headquartered in Southpointe, there can be no doubt Cecil Township is at the very heart of the intense debate over the proper role of local government in natural gas development.
So even though Act 13 isn’t law yet and some of the ordinances (such as the requirements on seismic testing) wouldn’t be invalidated under Act 13 anyhow, it has become conspicuously fashionable as of late for energy companies to sue Cecil Township on what can be described as shaky grounds at best.
In the past week, MarkWest and Dawson Geophysical have each sued Cecil in separate lawsuits. claims Cecil is preventing them building a compressor station which they would be permitted to build under Act 13, which would be reasonable if there wasn’t a clear order delaying the implementation of Act 13 for at least another month.
How can Cecil violate a law that isn’t in effect yet?
Dawson Geophysical, which is conducting seismic testing in Cecil Township, sued because they were suffering “irreparable harm” one day after they applied for a permit to use township roads for their testing. is a true head-scratcher, because Cecil never denied their request; the township didn’t have time to act on it one way or another before the 71-page lawsuit was filed.
And although Dawson’s lawyers had time to draft the lengthy complaint, Dawson’s employees couldn’t be bothered to read the ordinance requiring 150 foot setbacks for seismic testing and notification of the township before commencing; as a result, residents suffered property damage from the ‘thumper’ trucks and lots of unnecessary confusion.
As a lawyer myself with more than a little experience with the tactics of the natural gas industry, I’m going to throw out a crazy theory here. You think maybe all these companies are filing these frivolous lawsuits against Cecil Township so they can then point to all of the litigation as false evidence that Cecil is doing something worthy of being sued?
Everything about this looks like a put-up job designed to imply Cecil is costing taxpayers by basically inviting these lawsuits.
Ironically, public relations hacks for the natural gas industry have no problem discrediting municipal lawyers (especially in Cecil Township) whenever they want a cheap-shot quote, but somehow using high-priced law firms is perfectly fine when it suits their needs. Defending these frivolous suits will cost Cecil taxpayers money; Cecil’s own lawyer did the Act 13 challenge free of charge. As a Cecil Township resident and taxpayer, I don’t need a paid industry spokesman to tell me which side is likely looking out for my neighbors and me.
We hear lots about ‘wanting to be good neighbors.’ I don’t know how neighborhoods work in Texas or Colorado, but here’s how they work in Pennsylvania: Good neighbors respect one another. Good neighbors obey the law. Good neighbors walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Good neighbors unite a community, not divide it.
So to the companies using these frivolous lawsuits to paint a negative picture and create division in this community we’ve worked so hard to build, either knock it off, or don’t be surprised when Cecil Township has a lot more fences than it used to.