KEITH BOYER/THE CONTENTLY FOUNDATION
Signs in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, oppose a fracking wastewater injection well and advocate for “home rule,” which gives the township broad power to legislate.
The Huffington Post
By Sara Stewart
Grant Township, Pennsylvania, has been fighting to keep a wastewater disposal site out of town.
When Stacy Long learned in 2013 that a drilling company planned to dump its wastewater into an abandoned gas well two and a half miles from her house, she knew nothing about fracking, had never protested anything, and her legal knowledge amounted to zilch.
Long, 47, is a graphic designer from Grant Township, a rural enclave in western Pennsylvania about 70 miles from Pittsburgh. She’s an avid death metal fan who dresses mostly in black and lives with her husband in a house so deep in the woods they can’t see any neighbors. They call their home the Fishbowl, its giant windows offering sweeping views of their land.
She has long known that her home is something she wants to protect. “I’ve always seen the township as almost supernaturally beautiful: tranquil, lush, green,” Long said. “Any time of the night, you can see every star.”
Her family’s roots in the township go back four generations. Her mother, retired school teacher Judy Wanchisn, lives a mile away. Neither woman was thrilled about Pennsylvania General Energy’s plan to pump millions of gallons of water and toxic solvents into the well. They worried that the wastewater would leach into Little Mahoning Creek, the source of Grant’s pristine drinking water.
At first, no one paid Stacy Long and her mother much mind. But three and a half years later, PGE’s project is still tied up in the courts. With the help of a crusading law firm, Long and Wanchisn have taken a novel approach to keeping the well out of their town ― essentially changing Grant’s charter to declare it an independent legal entity with the authority to define civil rights for its citizens, even if those rights conflict with state laws.
They’ve challenged PGE’s permit applications at every step, claimed their watershed should be recognized as having the same legal rights as a human being, and even helped legalize civil disobedience in their town to protect anyone who takes direct action to stop PGE’s plans.
Long and Wanchisn’s fight has inspired similar efforts in other communities facing fracking companies that want to set up shop within their borders, creating a new a blueprint for resistance that dozens of other towns have taken up.
The women never expected any of this. To them, this fight was always about safeguarding the citizens of Grant Township.
“We’re up against an industry that enjoys every advantage,” said Long. “We’re tiny, we’re impoverished. Our economy is hanging by a thread. We’re the easiest and cheapest way for the gas industry to get rid of its crap.”
“But Grant is special,” she continued. “It’s the reason we’re fighting so hard.”
KEITH BOYER/THE CONTENTLY FOUNDATION
Stacy and Mark Long are fighting Pennsylvania General Energy’s plan to convert an old well into an injection site for wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing process.
Hundreds of fracking wells dot the verdant hills and valleys of Indiana County, which were once the heart of coal country. The nearby Little Mahoning is a jewel of the landscape, and the source of Grant’s drinking water for as long as anyone can remember. The creek, which managed to avoid the ravages of the coal industry, remains the thriving home to a variety of fish, freshwater mussels and the largest aquatic salamander in North America….
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