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Ferguson residents to vote on amendment

On November 6, Ferguson Township could be the second township in the nation to have successfully banned natural gas hydro-facturing within its borders. Groundswell, a community coalition, has been advocating adding a bill of rights to the Ferguson Home Rule Charter since mid-June.

Ferguson residents to vote on amendment

By Molly Cochran

On November 6, Ferguson Township could be the second township in the nation to have successfully banned natural gas hydro-facturing within its borders. Groundswell, a community coalition, has been advocating adding a bill of rights to the Ferguson Home Rule Charter since mid-June.

The group got their first win last November in State College Borough. The borough passed a community bill of rights and natural gas hydro-facturing (fracking) ban amendment to the Home Rule charter with a 72 percent vote, according to Groundswell’s website. This was the first Home Rule charter municipality to ban fracking in the nation. Groundswell hopes for another victory in Ferguson Township. But even if the amendments pass, there is no guarantee that they will become law.

Places like Ferguson Township and the State College borough can pass community bills of rights and fracking bans because these townships and boroughs do not derive their authority from the state level. So amendments cannot interfere with the state and federal government, according to the, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund website.


Advocating for the fracking ban

Groundswell has been advocating for an amendment to the charter that would ban hydro-fracturing in the township, protect citizens’ rights to clean air and water and return to them power over the government. Groundswell is an advocacy group located in downtown state college, founded by Penn State graduate Braden Crooks.

“Our Mission is to create sustainable communities through culture, economy and governance. We have the right to a sustainable future,” according to Groundswell’s website.

Jeff Kurland, a retired anthropology professor from Penn State and the campaign leader for Groundswell, talked about the importance for a cleaner environment and the amendment to the Ferguson Home Rule charter.

“We can’t have conversations with no world to live in,” says Kurland.

The answer to this is simple, according to Kurland, vote yes, on November 6th, 2012.

Other advocate groups that have also been campaigning for the amendment are the Sierra Club, the Community Environment Legal Defense Fund and the Community Rights Activists of Ferguson Township.

Pam Steckler, a member of CRAFT and a resident of Ferguson Township has also been advocating for the amendment to the Home Rule charter.

The goal of the amendment and fracking ban in Ferguson is to “put the power back in the people’s hands,” said Steckler.

State law Act 13 effectively removed that power from the people’s hands when it took away municipalities’ right to prohibit natural gas drilling through zoning regulations. But in July, the Commonwealth Court ruled 4-3 that the portions of the law that prohibit this use of municipal power are a violation of the state constitution. The state Supreme Court is, as of press time, hearing this case.

Amendments such as this one are in effect to challenge Act 13.

“It has to start somewhere. We have to test the law,” said Steckler.


Bill of Rights--what do they mean?

The bill of rights includes lofty ideals such as a right to a sustainable energy future and right to self-government, but according to Kurland the questions he was asked while canvassing were more particular. Some questions that Kurland faced in Ferguson Township were “Am I going to have to pay for this?” “Am I going to be sued?” he said.

Although the bill of rights aims to ban fracking and keep drilling companies out, Kurland said, “This is not an attack on the drilling companies.”

The bill of rights doesn’t target drilling companies, just states that Ferguson Township has the right to protect its land and protect from outside pollutants or the endangerment of streams.

“The drilling companies can’t come in and say, ‘you can’t have pure air, pure water,’” said Kurland.

Ferguson township supervisors, however, do not support this amendment.

“If approved, the Home Rule Charter Referendum may ultimately result in: opening the township to potential lawsuits, raising taxes or reducing services to defend actions violating the new provisions, limiting delivery systems such as natural gas lines supplying fuel to heat homes and operate businesses, taking away residents’ property (mineral) rights, and detracting potential economic development from Ferguson Township or lead to other unintended consequences,” reads the Ferguson township website regarding the amendment.

The Ferguson Township supervisors were presented with the amendment in August and had the township lawyer look at the amendment. The township lawyer concluded that the amendment goes against state laws, according to township supervisor Elliott Killian. Specifically, the amendment to the Home Rule Charter violates Act 13.

If the amendment is approved and there is a ban on hydro-fracturing in Ferguson Township following the November election, Killian said that the supervisors will likely appeal to the courts.

“It’s the right time, not the right focus,” said Ferguson Township supervisor Elliott Killian.

Moving forward is what Killian would like to see, but according to him this is not the right way. Killian added that he would support an amendment to Act 13 instead of the amendment to the Home Rule Charter in Ferguson Township.

“[The passing of the bill of rights] would be a burden to the township,” said Killian.


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Ferguson Township Referendum

This referendum question is more than just clean air and clean water. Voters are urged to read the entire petition to change the Township's Home Rule Charter. If passed this new provision to the Home Rule Charter will make Ferguson Township the 51st state in the union. The potential burden on the residents and taxpayers could be significant resulting in higher taxes and lower services. VOTE NO on Tuesday, November 6th.

Your alarmist tone makes me suspicious

By this time we consumers of political commentary are pretty jaded - and when somebody comes along and provides no facts, no references, no quotes, and goes on to say something alarming and something that sounds ridiculous - any not-brain-dead person is going to instantly be suspicious.

So, you are like what, a gas company spook?

Probably just a republican operative, doing a relatively poor job of spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I haven't read the referendum, what does it say that makes it "make ferguson the 51st state in the union"?

And exactly why would that be a bad thing? Why is "51st state in the union" your go-to FUDbomb?


I've decided to vote Yes on the Ferguson Township Referendum

I've been thinking about this a bit more after considering your talk about a 51st state of the union...

Since I in fact happen to be a Ferguson Township resident, I have decided I will vote Yes on that "Keep the Frackers Out of Ferguson" thing. And let me tell you why.

I dont like the fact that a bunch of out-of-state gas corporations think they can come into Pennsylvania, pay off our politicians, and take our gas and sell it overseas.

Those big out of state corporations may own Tom Corbett and a bunch of other corrupt Pa politicians, but they dont own Pennsylvania.

The gas isn't going anywhere. I dont want to give it cheap to out-of-staters, I dont want to give our gas to Korea. I wan tthe gas to be developed carefully by Pennsylvania companies and Pennsylvania workers, and used to power Pennsylvania homes and businesses. It's ours, and I dont want to sell it cheap just becuase a bunch of politicians got some shady campaign money, and are being told what to say by the gas corps.

I dont care that it might not stand up in court - because it will slow the process down and give we Pennsylvanians enough time to decide for ourselves what we want to do with our gas.

You people are just in way too big of a hurry to give our gas away, and that makes me suspicious as hell.

So, I say, to hell with you gas corporation spooks, to hell with you politicians, it's my land and my water and my gas - I want to make sure I profit from it, not you.

Thats why I am going to vote Yes to slow down the fracking here in Ferguson. I'm going to look for that part of the ballot and vote for it.

And I think having Ferguson being the 51st state is a damn good idea. Go Ferguson!


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