No 494 Posted by fw, June 4, 2012
“Not content to leave Pennsylvania communities with any control over gas drilling within their borders, state legislators have stripped municipalities of their zoning authority under Act 13, choosing energy corporations over the people who elected them.” —Ben Price
So writes Ben Price, CELDF’s Progress Director, in a Philadelphia news service. A copy of his short post appears below, tracing Pennsylvania’s transition to corporate statehood. As Progress Director, Price assists strategic functions in all areas of the US, facilitating the organizing and support of building a grassroots, transformational mass movement.
In latest attack on citizen’s rights, state legislators strip municipalities of zoning authority
Not content to leave Pennsylvania communities with any control over gas drilling within their borders, state legislators have stripped municipalities of their zoning authority under Act 13, choosing energy corporations over the people who elected them. This isn’t exactly new ground for the legislature; indeed, taking away communities’ authority to govern themselves is a decades-old pastime in Harrisburg, one that has shifted into high gear over the past 20 years.
In 1992 the legislature ceded logging rights to timber interests
The legislature made logging a guaranteed right in all zoning districts back in 1992, giving in to timber interests and eliminating municipalities’ authority to provide for conservation zones.
Next, lawmakers stripped municipalities of other regulatory authorities including water extraction
Shortly thereafter, lawmakers stripped municipalities of their authority to regulate corporate water extraction, the use of genetically modified seeds, and the dumping of urban sewage sludge on farmland. They also required all communities to allow “reasonable” extraction of minerals.
In 2005, state lawmakers effectively gave private agribusiness its own taxpayer-funded public lawyer – the state attorney general
Until recently, however, corporations still had to go to the trouble of suing municipalities if they wanted to overturn local laws. That changed in 2005, when, responding to the growing number of municipalities banning factory farms, the legislature adopted Act 38, the Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environment Act, known as ACRE. It not only preempted municipal regulation of factory farming; it also gave private agribusiness a public lawyer: the state attorney general.
Under ACRE, instead of bothering to sue municipalities themselves, factory farmers could ask the attorney general to do so for them. Taxpayer-funded state attorneys were thus required to act at the behest of private corporations and against our communities to overturn democratically enacted laws. The state became not only an enactor of corporate-written law, but also a direct enforcer of it.
Using this as a model, Act 13 once again positions the state as corporate enforcer, this time through the Public Utility Commission. Under the law, the PUC can move to nullify any local laws that regulate gas extraction.
Municipalities have been transformed into wholly owned subsidiaries of the legislature
Act 13 hastens Pennsylvania’s transition to corporate statehood. Municipalities have been transformed into wholly owned subsidiaries of the legislature, with a status somewhere below that of private corporations.