During a recent low-energy session of channel surfing, my mood was lifted by the broadcast of the original Wizard of Oz. As the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion sang of the need for a brain, a heart, and courage, the tale seemed serendipitous.
As reported earlier in Earthblog, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exhibited all those qualities in striking down parts of Act 13 and upholding municipal zoning as a way to stem drilling damage, as well as the constitutional right of citizens to a clean environment. So did the Dallas City Council, which the week before enacted a restrictive zoning ordinance that puts health and property before industry convenience. Then the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General determined that the EPA was justified in its efforts to protect Texas residents from water contamination related to drilling.
But just as evil and perils greeted the travelers to Oz, industry and its supporters persist in putting up roadblocks when they feel threatened.
On a Friday evening and with little public notice, the supervisors of Mt. Pleasant Township, PA voted to approve Range Resources’ plan to build a giant wastewater “tank farm” in a residential and agricultural area—despite documented legal questions and environmental and health risks. Although the Township was a party to the suit against Act 13, it abandoned courage by saying that its own zoning ordinance was “open to interpretation” and forgot to have heart for the residents whose air and water quality will be impacted.
Now the Administration of Pennsylvania Governor Corbett (aka industry's darling) seems to have lost its brains. Declaring that the Supreme Court justices who ruled on Act 13 “misunderstood” the law and weren’t “factual” in their findings, it’s asking for the case to be turned back to a lower court. It even implied that the so-called Department of Environmental Protection didn’t like the Supreme Court’s reliance on the state constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment.
Nonetheless, as a new year begin it’s good to remember that steps forward with steps back is still progress. Citizens are strengthening calls for a clean energy future and forcing decisionmakers to respect democracy. Industry claims of endless energy resources and jobs are looking more and more like hoopla and snake oil.
After all, when Dorothy and her friends finally pulled back the curtain in Oz, they didn’t find a miracle worker—but by then they had the solidarity and knowledge necessary to make their dreams come true anyway.