PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

The Importance of Funding Environmental Public Interest Law

Pictured: Larry Schweiger, PennFuture President and CEO, PennFuture board member Diana Dakey and her husband Alan Dakey, PennFuture client Dawn Gorsline, Michele Batkowski

PennFuture just argued one of the most important environmental cases in recent history in front of the PA Supreme Court.   

In this role, we were representing two client couples from Fairfield Township who have taken a very brave stand against the natural gas industry’s insistence that fracking can and should be allowed in low density residential neighborhoods.  

Without PennFuture’s talented attorneys, the citizens of Pennsylvania would have no one to argue on their behalf against the highly paid, high power, corporate attorney’s proposition of the concept that fracking, which is a private industrial activity, is a ‘public benefit,’ and that an acre and a half well pad is a ‘public service facility.’   

Every day, public interest attorneys like ours, take on cases like these, on behalf of people like you and I.  

These attorneys either work for non-profit organizations, like PennFuture, or work pro-bono, because without them, decision-making would be made along lines of the financial gains of industries with little to no regard for the people’s constitutional rights to clean air or clean water, or to the rights of the environment to protection.   

Imagine a world without those people and organizations like PennFuture standing up for you, the public. It is a bleak and dim prospective where government is only influenced by those seeking financial gains, not by those seeking to live their lives free of the harm that comes from being a sacrificial statistic.  We need these attorneys to be there, watchful, providing a safety net, and supporting justice.    

We need PennFuture.  We need to make sure that PennFuture is funded and that it has the resources to have a team of top environmental talent.  We need bright and educated and articulate attorneys who expertly understand the complexity and nuances of Pennsylvania, environmental law, land, and can analyze and argue against the tactics taken by the attorneys that are bought by industry. 

We all sleep better at night knowing that when this happens, PennFuture is taking appropriate and legal action to make sure that it doesn’t just happen without a legal fight.  

In this case, the corporation ‘s attorneys were able to convince Fairfield Township, PA, in Lycoming County, to allow an exceptional use for a fracking well pad in a non-industrial, non-commercial, low density, mixed use agriculture and residential zone.  

The company argued that the gas well pad is a ‘public benefit’ or ‘public service,’ which would liken it to a hospital or fire station.  The flaws in their logic are extensive on that argument, as the activity exists for purely private gains.  They also stated that the well pad was ‘low impact’ and ‘passive.’ Again, this is an argument that has extensive logic flaws, as is increasingly apparent to the average person thanks to the increase in reports coming to light around the impacts of fracking.  

Remember, this particular well pad is targeted to go in amongst residential houses.  The company doesn’t see the impact on those around the well pad as their problem, and the industry has collectively put their deep pockets behind lobbyists and attorneys with the goal of making this not their problem, or assuring that people and the environment are protected, their responsibility.   Again, that is why PennFuture is here.   

We, the staff and volunteers and members of PennFuture, know that the citizens are more important than the companies, that the environment is more important than the industry.  

And all other issues with natural gas aside, we stand with you when you need us. 

We will take your rights and the protections owed to all of us by the Environmental Rights Amendment all the way to the Supreme Court when necessary.   Article I, Section 27, of the PA Constitution states:  ‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.’  

Our attorneys, like all other public interest attorneys, are funded by the generosity of philanthropists and the collective donations of the people.  And on behalf of my children and theirs to come, I thank you for being a part of that and encourage you to urge everyone you know to join in assuring that funding is solidified so that we never find ourselves without. 

Click here to donate today.

Get the Latest onOur PennFuture

Sign up for email updates on the latest news, events, and opportunities to make a difference.

Sign Up