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Seneca Resources Corp. v. Highland Township

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20129
Nos. 16-cv-289, (W.D. Pa., 09/29/2017) (Baxter, J.)

A district court held that a township's Home Rule Charter prohibiting deposition of any waste from oil and gas extraction within the township and invalidating any state permit to the contrary was preempted by the SDWA. In 2014, EPA granted an oil company a permit for an underground injection control well in Highland Township in Pennsylvania. During the oil company's application process, the township adopted a local ordinance that prohibited the deposition, storage, treatment, or injection of materials that have been used in the extraction of natural gas into the land, air, or water of the township. The oil company sued the township over the ordinance and entered into a consent decree with the township’s board of supervisors declaring this portion of the ordinance invalid. Later, the residents voted through a referendum for the adoption of a new Home Rule Charter that included similar provisions to the previously invalidated ordinance. Again the oil company sued to invalidate the Charter. The court held that the Charter was preempted by the SDWA because it presented an obstacle to the law’s stated goals to create a cooperative system, based on principles of federalism, to regulate and protect drinking water and any underground processes which might endanger that resource. The Charter was invalidated.