Natural Gas NOW
The “scorched earth campaigns” of the Clean Air Council and Delaware Riverkeeper, two William Penn Foundation lackey groups, earn a well-deserved lawsuit.
Finally, someone has done exactly what has long been needed in fighting back against the fractivist activities of the elitist foundations funding the opposition to shale gas development – they’ve sued the perpetrators and it’s making them nervous. The shoe is on the other foot.
Regular readers of this blog know all about the Clean Air Council and Delaware Riverkeeper, two of the principal dirty tricks arms of the William Penn Foundation, which is not only directing major parts of the war against fracking. but also indirectly running much of Pennsylvania government and exercising control over major media in the state.
Readers will also recall our story of how these carpetbagging outfits have imposed severe costs on Middlesex Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, which is more than 200 miles and a tax-exempt galaxy away from the Delaware River basin that is supposedly the focus of the Riverkeeper’s “charitable” activities. They have gone out of their way to harass a community they said ought to have the right to decide on shale gas development but only if they decide against it.
That last part demonstrates the complete phoniness of these Act 13 challengers. They take great pride in supposedly standing with the rights of communities on the issue of shale gas, but fall on those same communities like a ton of bricks if local officials actually dare to exercise their own judgment rather than line up with the anti-development positions of the William Penn Foundation. Now, someone has called them on it.
That someone was Dewey Homes and Investment Properties LLC and several individual landowners in Middlesex Township and environs who had, in 2009 and 2010, entered into leases with gas companies companies to lease their land for shale gas development. Their land is located in a municipality that has provided for such development and Rex Energy was ready to proceed when the William Penn Foundation’s minions, the Delaware Riverkeeper and the Clean Air Council decided to turn their previous argument about the value of municipal decision-making on its head and oppose any decision that allowed such development.
The minions lined up with local NIMBY plaintiffs to challenge the zoning they’ve previously argued is the right of such communities – part of a deliberate strategy also employed by the William Penn Foundation’s PennFuture subsidiary to intimidate local officials who might exercise their rights in ways the three lackey groups never intended. They have selected municipalities in key drilling areas to sue as a technique for warning others their ability to use zoning to control shale gas development had better be used in a politically correct fashion or the lackeys will sue their pants off and force them to bust their budgets defending the lawsuits. It’s a variation of what is known in legal circles as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” or SLAPP.
Which, of course, is precisely why the Delaware Riverkeeper’s trial lawyer attorney, “super lawyer” Jordan Yeager (yes, he’s one of those guys we see on the covers of phone books, billboards and television), is running around calling the Dewey Homes lawsuit a SLAPP. All good radicals, in fact, have absorbed that technique: accuse your enemies of whatever it is you’re doing. Yeager and company are doing everything they can to intimidate public officials of a small rural township as part of their insidious campaign, launched with the millions of dollars provided their organizations over the years by the super rich William Penn Foundation and its benefactors, the Haas family (which made its money in the chemical business). Yeager is their SLAPPor and Middlesex Township taxpayers are their SLAPPee.
Landowners are simply fighting back against the Haas family bullies – against Philadelphia high society’s plans to keep them in pastoral poverty. Here’s some of what their lawsuit says (emphasis added):
69. The express purpose of the contracts between Plaintiffs and Companies is to allow drilling activities in an attempt to locate and recover, oil, gas, and its constituents and provide income to Plaintiffs;
70. The contracts provide for Plaintiffs to receive substantial income as a result of the activities aforementioned, based on the provisions of the lease as set forth above, calculated based on a percentage related to the oil, gas, and constituents recovered;
71. The provisions of the zoning ordinances of Middlesex Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania (hereinafter referred to as “the Township”) allow the proposed activities of Companies, pursuant to the aforementioned contracts, upon Plaintiffs’ properties;
72. Appropriate permits have been issued for these activities by all governmental authorities including Township…
75. Defendants, acting in concert with each other, engaged in a campaign and common plan to interfere with the contractual relationships between Plaintiffs and Companies by making false, misleading, or inflammatory public statements, presenting improper and unfounded appeals and wrongful and/ or unsupported affidavits before the Zoning Hearing Board of Township (collectively “Defendants’ Activities”);
76. Defendants’ Activities were undertaken not for any legitimate purpose, but performed for the improper purpose of causing delays and extra expense in the performance of the contract between Companies and Plaintiffs, with the ultimate goal of causing Companies not to perform under the contracts with Plaintiffs;
77. Defendants’ Activities were a sham for the purpose of interfering with the contractual relationships between Plaintiffs and Companies and, to force Companies not to proceed with drilling activities and other actions, due to Defendant caused delays and costs;
78. Defendants’ activities are for the purpose of interfering with actual and prospective contractual relationships between Plaintiffs and oil and gas companies;
79. Defendants’ Activities include the following:
(a) intentionally misstating the known facts and health issues in a scorched earth campaign with regard to dissemination of false, misleading, and inflammatory statements;
(b) filing procedurally not permitted challenges to the substantive ordinance for the purpose of forcing further delays;
(c) using purposefully inflammatory language to improperly force Companies not to proceed with its planned activities under the contracts;
(d) pursuing matters which are not properly before the Township Zoning Board for the purpose of causing further delays;
(e) engaging in an incendiary scorched earth campaign and misusing the legal process in pursuit of a “cause,” against all Marcellus Shale drilling activities, which interferes with the Plaintiffs’ specific landowner rights of ownership;
(f) engaging in such incendiary actions as a scorched earth campaign and misusing the legal process in the use of inflammatory language not for the purposes of any matters appropriately before the Township Zoning Board, but to raise contributions and financial support for Network and Council;
(g) filing a frivolous substantive challenge to the Township ordinance to interfere with the above referenced contractual relationship;
(h) filing a frivolous substantive challenge to the issuance of Zoning Permits without a factual or legal basis;
(i) filing a frivolous challenge to the Zoning Permits for the purpose of interfering with the above contractual relationships;
(j) improperly and unlawfully engagir1g in activities contrary to the legal limitations regarding Network’s and Council’s activities, as 501C(3) charitable organizations, pursuant to law, their organizational documents, purposes, and funding limitations;
(k) otherwise engaging in such activities to cause delay and for other improper purposes, when Defendants knew or should have known the Township Zoning Ordinance is within the scope of the Township’s discretion, as affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and there is no meritorious challenge under the law; and
(i) Defendants have proceeded with Defendants’ Activities despite these activities having no meritorious legal basis and being only for improper and unlawful purposes.
80. Defendants’ Activities and actions have caused Companies to stop, suspend, or not proceed with activities, drilling and production, resulting in a loss of substantial income to Plaintiffs…
107. Defendants Activities and actions, as set forth herein, have been in concert and combination with each other pursuant to a common plan to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means;
That’s the essence of the case and it properly focuses on points we have previously made here; beginning with the fact the Delaware Riverkeeper and Clean Air Council are two lackey groups working for the same master (the William Penn Foundation) and are working in concert. They are also engaged in bringing frivolous legal actions for the purposes of bullying local officials who dare to use their Act 13 authority in favor of natural gas development. Worse, they’re doing it under the cover of being non-political charities effectively subsidized by taxpayers.
The Riverkeeoer and Clean Air Council strategy is quite obviously is to select targets and attack them as warnings to others that could be next. It is a campaign of intimidation brought under the guise of a validity challenge which, moreover, is then employed as a stage for a much bigger anti-fossil fuels campaign that should be totally irrelevant to a validity challenge.
What the landowners are doing in this case is exposing that fact; that none of this is about zoning for these two William Penn Foundation outfits. It’s part and parcel of an ideological war and these two related groups are using local NIMBYs as pawns in their chess game. This type of lawsuit is long overdue and may there be many more of them. It’s time to hit back twice as hard, as they say.