BUCKS COUNTY >> State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced on June 11 that a federal judge sided with Senate Democrats to protect the drinking water of five million Pennsylvanians.
The order entered by Judge Diamond in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismisses, with prejudice, the claims of the Senate Republican Caucus based on lack of standing to bring the lawsuit.
The Republican Senate Caucus had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) now-permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware Basin. In March, Senate Democrats, intervened in the lawsuit and were later joined by Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The intervening parties together filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs lacked standing.
“This is an important victory in our effort to protect the drinking water of five million Pennsylvanians,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Today’s order granting our motion to dismiss the Senate Republican’s claim was granted with prejudice, which means they are not able to re-file their lawsuit. The DRBC has been a steward of our water supply, and with today’s order they will be able to continue to ensure the Delaware River is free from the hazardous environmental effects of fracking.”
The claims by the local government plaintiffs - Damascus and Dyberry Townships, and Carbon and Wayne Counties — were also dismissed. Those claims were dismissed without prejudice, for failing to state a claim for which relief can be granted. These plaintiffs were given until July 1, 2021 to provide an amended complaint. If they fail to do so by the deadline, their claim will then be dismissed with prejudice.
“I am confident that this is behind us,” continued Sen. Santarsiero. “If the local governments choose to file amended complaints, we will continue to engage in the lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment guarantees the right to clean, safe drinking water, and my Democratic colleagues and I will continue to do what is necessary to make that a reality across the Commonwealth.”
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum also intervened in the case on February 25 and shortly thereafter filed a Motion to Dismiss the federal lawsuit filed on January 11 against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Motions to dismiss were also filed by the DRBC, Democratic Senator intervenors and Bucks and Montgomery counties.
“We are pleased, but not surprised, that the court dismissed the case ruling that the Senators and others do not have standing. In every attempt by Senators Yaw and Baker to intervene in ongoing litigation in order to strike down fracking protections provided to the Delaware River watershed, they have stretched the bounds of the truth, the law, and their authority as legislators," said van Rossum. "Rather than trying to strip away protections from the ravages of fracking, the Senators should be joining with Senators Santarsiero, Comitta, Cappelletti, Collett, Fontana, Haywood, Hughes, Kane, Kearney, Muth, Sabatina, Saval, Schwank, Street, Tartaglione, and Williams defending these critical protections and seeking to secure protections for all Pennsylvania communities from the ravages of fracking.
"Fracking is inflicting devastating environmental, health, safety and economic consequences across the Commonwealth; it is important we learn from these experiences by continuing the strong protections provided for the Delaware River watershed while at the same time putting in place a moratorium against ongoing fracking in other Pennsylvania watersheds," said van Rossum. "We have proven fracking is not safe for our watershed and communities, and at the same time demonstrated it is not safe for any watershed or community. Senators Yaw and Baker need to stand up for the people, not the industry."
In its Motion to Dismiss, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network claimed the plaintiff parties to the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus lawsuit lack standing because they are not suffering any requisite harm. DRN also skewered the plaintiffs for perversely employing Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. The Motion to Dismiss stated that the Municipal Plaintiffs subverted their roles as trustees by “promoting heedless economic motivations that the citizens of the Commonwealth overwhelmingly voted to thwart by adopting the Environmental Rights Amendment”.