[Why is this important for environment and sustainability? The US says states can’t protect themselves (e.g., by setting their own gas mileage standards) and the state says counties and municipalities can’t protect themselves (e.g., by regulating petroleum products pipelines). It’s time for municipalities to take back the right to work for the health, safety and welfare of their own residents. If the state of Pennsylvania cannot adequately implement its own constitution’s environmental rights amendment, then the levels of government closer to the grassroots need to do the job.]
Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, October 3, 2019 | 5:13 PM
Area officials support efforts
EXTON, Oct. 3 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, today announced a proposal for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution.
Otten’s amendment, H.B. 1813, would allow municipal governments to enact laws protecting the health and safety of their communities without interference from corporations or pre-emption by the state or federal government.
“Today, I stood with local elected officials and members of our community to announce a proposal for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would recognize the fundamental right of the people to local self-government and place the rights of citizens over the interests of private corporations,” Otten said. “Under current law in Pennsylvania, corporations can sue state and federal governments to override community attempts to protect themselves from projects with the potential to cause great personal or environmental harm. It is time we correct that failure.”
Otten was joined by Uwchlan Township Supervisor Bill Miller, West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin, community organizer and Downingtown Area School Board director Rebecca Britton, PA Community Rights Network President Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck and a volunteer leader with the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action, Erin Buchner.
Miller noted the current inability of townships to regulate the proliferation of cellular towers, the presence of guns in local parks or the sale of fireworks within township borders.
Uwchlan Township Supervisor Mayme Baumann also expressed support for the proposed amendment, stating, “Pennsylvania is a diverse patchwork of rural townships, suburban areas, small towns, and cities. This amendment would help us create a government that better reflects the values of our communities and gives municipalities the ability to protect their residents’ health, safety and natural resources.”
Britton discussed the importance of the legislation for communities living with pipeline construction, noting that “we the people can no longer protect our property as guaranteed us by the Pennsylvania constitution, because a private entity is shipping off our natural resources for plastics production, and in turn has put our private property at risk.”
Buchner commented on the need for the amendment as it relates to gun safety.
“Pre-emption laws override commonsense. In Pennsylvania, the state legislature has prohibited guns in the state Capitol and on state properties, while at the same time it pre-empts local governments from restricting guns in municipal buildings or in any city or town hall.”
Herrin described the ways that pre-emption ties her hands as a mayor on issues including gun safety, environmental initiatives, and taxing authority.
“We have a $20 million unfunded pension liability in West Chester because we have a large police force,” Herrin said. “I can’t protect my constituents from carrying the tax burden because the state will not allow us to generate revenue in any other way than through three very limited taxing authorities.”
Harnish Clatterbuck discussed the impact when a pipeline project called Atlantic Sunrise came through her Lancaster County community.
“We discovered that a company in Oklahoma had more power to do on our property what they wanted than we had the right to stop them. We were overruled by the regulatory agencies and by pre-emption, which has allowed our elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington to violate the health and safety of the people they have been elected to represent.”
For more information, those interested can call Otten’s office at 484-200-8259.