Court Orders Nonprofit Law Firm to Pay $52,000 to Oil and Gas Company for Defending Local Fracking Waste Ban

By Simon Davis-Cohen, editor of the Ear to the Ground newsletter, an exclusive “civic intelligence” service that mines local newspapers and state legislatures from across the country. Originally published at DeSmogBlog

In early January, a federal judge ordered the nonprofit law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pay $52,000 to an oil and gas exploration company for defending a rural Pennsylvania township’s ban on underground injections of frack waste.

This sanction comes at the request of Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil &Gas Association, but is part of a growing trend to prevent municipalities across the nation from pushing back against state and federal attempts to overrule them.

Starting in 2012, PGE proposed an injection well which, according to Grant Township’s Board of Supervisors, “would receive 30,000 barrels [1.26 million gallons] of frack wastewater per month for 10 years.” The board of supervisors for this small community near Pittsburgh warns that the injection well “threatens to subject every resident of Grant Township to a slow poisoning, and threatens thousands more who depend on Grant Township’s watershed for clean water.”

The community’s law, they go on, bans the injection well “as a violation of our basic civil rights.” PGE operates multiple gas-extraction wells in the township.

Rights of Nature, Local Governance

CELDF, which has defended Grant’s efforts to prevent waste injection wells for over three years, has worked with some 200 municipalities in the United States to defend local laws challenging similar corporate projects. The group aims to drive state constitutional change to bolster the rights of local residents and ecosystems against what it calls regressive state preemption and corporate personhood.

Grant Township, for example, is elevating a “right of self-government,” rights “to clean air, water, and soil” and “ecosystem rights” above corporations’ “rights” to inject waste from oil and gas extraction in the township.

These types of local laws often face substantial legal pushback from private corporations and states which claim authority over issues such as fossil fuel production. Along with the sanctions against CELDF, PGE is suing Grant Township itself, population 741, for damages that would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Among its claims: The injection well ban violates the corporation’s rights as a “person” under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments; the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and the Contract Clause and Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Grant Township is the fourth local government CELDF has defended in federal court.

‘Frivolous’ Legal Arguments

At the heart of the court’s decision awarding PGE sanctions against the legal nonprofit (the company originally asked for $500,000) is an argument that the sanctions are justified because CELDF’s legal arguments are contrary to “settled” law and therefore “frivolous.” This reasoning asserts that corporate personhood and Pennsylvania’s authority over municipalities on issues affecting drinking water and fossil fuel development is settled, and therefore CELDF’s defense of Grant’s claim to the contrary is “clearly unreasonable.”

Grant Township, the court writes, “seeks to disavow constitutional rights afforded corporations so as to prevent PGE from the lawful exercise of its right to pursue gas extraction related activities within its borders.” On top of all this, Grant’s law recognized legal rights for a local ecosystem. CELDF’s attempt to represent that ecosystem in court, the judge ruled, violates the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a set of rules that govern how legal proceedings take place in  United States district courts.

Local Governments Sanctioned Across US

CELDF is not alone in facing sanctions for challenging so-called settled law on similar issues. Defend Local Solutions is a campaign led by Tallahassee’s Mayor Andrew Gillum which is aimed at expanding the powers of municipalities in Florida. The campaign says at least seven states have “super preemption” bills on the books that sanction local officials who dare challenge specific state preemption bills that rescind powers from municipalities.

In Florida, for example, Gillum personally faced the threat of sanctions after he refused to repeal a local law that banned fire arms in public parks (even though the ordinance wasn’t being enforced).

New bills, such as Texas’s highly controversial “show me your papers” and sanctuary city preemption bill (SB4), also include punitive language for municipalities pushing back against state and federal authority.

Texas’s bill would fine local officials and employees $25,000 per day or even remove them from office if they defy the law, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Parts of this section of the law, however, are hung up in court. However, the court ruled that local officials can be sanctioned if they outright ban police from asking for people’s immigration papers, and other sections of the bill are in effect, including a section that threatens punishment for local jail officers. The concept of economic retribution for noncompliance is spreading.

Georgia’s 2017 bill, HB37, removes funding from any private college that “prohibits or restricts officials or employees … from communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting [immigration] status information.” And in 2016 Arizona passed a bill which withholds state funds from localities that enact policy that challenges the state’s claimed supremacy.

In CELDF’s sanction case, the court acknowledges that sanctions can have the effect of “chilling novel legal or factual arguments.”

Thomas Linzey, CELDF’s director and one of the two attorneys being personally sanctioned, says “that’s exactly the point. For years, the oil and gas corporations believed that they could stop the community rights movement by suing municipalities to overturn their local laws; but having failed to do so, they’re now coming after the lawyers who are helping those communities to stop drilling. In many ways, the industry’s filing for sanctions against us is just proof of how strong the community rights movement is becoming.”

In court records, CELDF points to Brown v. Board of Education (which overturned “separate but equal” schools for Black and White students, 1954), courts striking down bans on gay marriage, and other novel legal arguments as evidence that sanctions against lawyers who challenge “settled” law could set a dangerous precedent.

We understand that the real problem isn’t the injection well, but the system of law that keeps trying to shut us down,” the Grant Township Board of Supervisors said in a statement. “We’re not going anywhere.”

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  1. The Rev Kev

    It’s been a while since I read the US bill of rights but I can see a few problems with what is happening as described in this article. The first amendment guarantees free speech and one of the most important places for this is in a court of law For a judge to make a decision like this means that a lawyer in an American court would have to consider that what he said in a client’s defense could be used to make punitive damages to him on behalf of a ‘corporate’ person. Nice.
    Another thing is that a rock-bed of American political philosophy is the Declaration of Independence in which is guaranteed ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. If a corporation is poising your water supplies, that is a direct threat to life. If I was a lawyer, I would make clear to any corporation that is anybody living on that water table got so much as a sniffle, that I would be going after them while demanding discovery of all their files and whatever chemicals were used by that corporation.
    To tell you the truth, it is things like this that is getting American law the reputation as a legal backwater (, especially this whole idea of a ‘corporate’ personhood. The Supreme Court is supposed to fight for the integrity of the US Constitution but I have been reading some strange things about this group for years and, like your Senate, seem more often missing in action than not.

    1. Fraibert

      A few points in response.

      First, the First Amendment does broadly guarantee freedom of speech, and its protection of the right to petition the government for redress of grievances also covers the ability to pursue legal actions. However, there is no right to make frivolous arguments before a court, and attorneys (or their clients depending on the situation) can be sanctioned by a court if they do so. Since the article does not link to a written decision, it’s not readily possible to determine why the court found the arguments frivolous (and I’m not saying the determination is correct), but it is not treated as a significant First Amendment issue for a court to regulate the behavior of attorneys appearing before it. This is analogous to a situation where an attorney gets sanctioned for the “speech only” behavior of presenting false or misleading information to a court.

      Second, absent a claim that can be pursued under the law, you cannot seek discovery in a civil matter. A lawyer might face sanctions if he or she filed a suit alleging harm from pollution without any plausible ability to link the pollution to a the illness. To be clear, the suit’s allegations do not have to be a full fledged theory, but there has to be some stated reason to conclude that a particular corporation is causing the harm or the case is not going to survive long enough to get to discovery.

      Third, although I have reservations about treating corporations as persons under the Constitution, I would also urge you to consider the counterfactual. If corporations are not Constitutional persons, then government would have the right to regulate or outright prohibit speech from organizations that it dislikes, such as the ACLU or other advocacy groups. These groups are, after all, also organized as corporations.

      1. perpetualWAR

        Judge Susan Paradise Baxter began her practice in Washington, D.C., at the firm of Cole, Raywid and Braverman, now Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. DWT defends the financial institutions and large corporate clients. It figures this woman would uphold PGE’s interest over the rights of the township of Grant to not want to be POISONED.

      2. Bill

        from the post above:

        Grant Township, for example, is elevating a “right of self-government,” rights “to clean air, water, and soil” and “ecosystem rights” above corporations’ “rights” to inject waste from oil and gas extraction in the township.

        this does not sound frivolous to me. and the “get sick and die then prove it was my fault” defense is pretty disgusting. and corporate personhood came about so that corporations would have the same rights to give money to political campaigns as “people”. I can only assume that you do not breath clean air to live, and drink clean water to survive, and eat food grown in clean soil to nourish yourself.

        1. Fraibert

          Thanks for the ad hominem.

          The point is simple: A lawsuit stating that “I am sick and I demand you compensate me” is not going to fly. In contrast, a suit, at least at the initial stage, alleging that “I am sick, I got sick only after fracking started, and tests show that my blood has contamination consistent with fracking chemical exposure” will probably proceed to discovery.

          1. Bill

            wow, you think that is ad hominem? My point is simple also: Why is the burden of proof demanded after the fact instead of corporations having to prove they will do no harm before being allowed to proceed to suddenly and radically change the environment where they will be working?

              1. Fraibert

                My goal is to provide context and additional information on legal issues without any value judgment. I have not stated any personal views here, so I don’t see it being fair to assume what I think.

                1. perpetualWAR

                  I apologize. I dislike attorneys quite a bit. My personal viewpoint is unfair in this context.

                  I don’t believe in our judicial system. I don’t believe attorneys work to uphold the law. I don’t believe that justice is ever served in our “justice system.” Those are my prejudices.

                2. RepubAnon

                  On a side note – Roe v Wade is “settled law.” Shouldn’t judges sanction any state or local entity seeking to infringe on a woman’s right to an abortion?

                  I do agree with Fraibert’s point: it’s not enough to claim damages – the injured person should also show how those damages were caused by the person from whom they are seeking compensation for those damages.

          2. Pat

            Why are the people who live in an area being restrained from deciding what businesses can operate in their area? This has been part of zoning for my entire lifetime. If a community can tell Wal-Mart to go somewhere else, why not fossil fuel companies? Why, when there is evidence from other areas where this has taken place must they wait until they their land and place of residence is poisoned to say “you shouldn’t do this”? Why is the burden of proof on the people who will live and possibly die with the consequences rather than on a body where the people making the decisions will face none of the consequences if they are wrong or are lying? Especially when there is no going back from those consequences.

            They shouldn’t have to wait for discovery, they should get to say “NO” upfront. That people wholly unconnected to the area will get rich off something that, from evidence across the country, could destroy their water and poison their lands making their homes worthless and endangering their lives does not make fighting laws that should never have been passed (and here is where I am being ad hominen) are likely the result of the deep corruption of our political system something illegal and punishable. And frankly the system has also been corrupted to mean that the type of suit you are talking about after the fact has little or no chance today of truly these people in the likely instance that the companies involved are lying and don’t give a damn about the destruction they will cause, much less address the fact they are going to be unable to clean up the mess they will make.

              1. Fraibert

                Municipalities and other localities like counties are at the bottom of the totem pole for governance. They can only regulate to the extent they have authorization from the state, and only to the extent the regulation is consistent with state and federal law, including the constitutions at both levels.

                In short, if the state allows its localities to prohibit gas extraction, and there’s no overriding federal law on the issue, then localities can do so.

                With that said, zoning is usually a power delegated to localities, as you note, but political forces in the oil and gas industry are trying to take that away.

                This is why some business interests are now trying to expand what they call “economic rights” under the federal Constitution. If there is a federal right to undertake business activity (and it strikes me as very questionable that there is in the form propounded), it follows that local zoning laws are going to be under heavy challenge, and states won’t be able to protect localities from these challenges.

                1. Bill

                  and if that doesn’t work for the corps, there’s the National Guard and the militarized police…

                2. anon

                  Hope you check back here, Fraibert. I, for one, very much appreciate the legal perspective. Your analysis cooly points out the problems and could point anyone willing to do something other than complain in the right direction toward significant action.

      3. Kris Alman

        That’s why Move to Amend plays no favorites when it comes to their proposed 28th amendment. Corporations, nonprofits and unions are all government created artificial entities and would not be afforded Constitutional Rights under their proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution.
        Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
        The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

        The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

        Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

        Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

        Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

        The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

  2. Ben Fitzkee

    Someone should tell Ecuador about this…

    At the heart of the court’s decision awarding PGE sanctions against the legal nonprofit (the company originally asked for $500,000) is an argument that the sanctions are justified because CELDF’s legal arguments are contrary to “settled” law and therefore “frivolous.”

    In 2008, CELDF helped Ecuador draft Rights of Nature language for their new constitution. The first government they helped do this was the little borough of Tamaqua, in north central PA coal country. Settled, my @$$.

  3. perpetualWAR

    To anyone who’s spent any time fighting within the “judicial system” in this country, this article is within their experience. The courts are a joke. Justice is for sale. And he who has the most money, wins.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Yes yes yes to the above!

      And while the Dems are whining about BS Russian influence, the Republicans are making the courts even worse. Trump is filling judicial positions without much opposition and I seem to recall the same thing happening when Shrub was president. Somehow though when a Democrat is president it’s always Republican opposition keeping them from appointing all the good judges they’d really like to.

      The courts are a joke and they are that way because both political parties are just fine with it.

      I live in a town going through this very same thing – we passed a local law to limit what oil companies can do and we’re being sued by ExxonMobil right now. Funny, but I don’t see a lot of politicians lining up to file amicus briefs for the town’s defense or any other assistance whatsoever, even something as small as an editorial in support of the town’s efforts. Just crickets.

  4. Chauncey Gardiner

    So governments of municipalities and their legal counsel who attempt to defend and protect their citizens’ health and safety, a primary responsibility of sound governance and a basic civil right, are to be held financially liable for any legal actions that challenge state or federal policy which ignores that responsibility?… Nice. I would imagine those who currently control the policies of the now Orwellian-named EPA and Department of Interior are celebrating this contemptible legal decision.

  5. MichaelC

    Of course, behind all of this is the corporate personhood and money as speech wins that these entities now have as a result of over 120 years of gaining these rights through the courts. Some-such, as Move to Amend and POCLAD–point out that it even started much earlier than the famous Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case [1886]. This handy timeline gives the history in short form (suggestion: hit ctr + to enlarge and then scroll to right to see all of the history):

    Until we do something to take care of the power corporations have due to this perversion of not only law but of common sense, we will always be nipping at the heels of these entities.

  6. Sid Finster

    It does not matter what the law says.

    As long as companies don’t start fracking where rich people actually live, the courts will do everything they can to help them.

    1. ambrit

      A double edged sword, that. Really “rich” people can move away to cleaner environs if they have to. This will slowly point out the divide between the “rich” and the “merely well off.”
      One thing I am learning about corporate “persons” is that ‘they’ don’t really care about how ‘rich’ one is, just the ‘bottom line.’ Even corporate “persons” can exhibit the traits of sociopaths and narcissists. I would say that corporate “persons” are even better at this than ‘real’ “persons” are.

      1. Bill

        there is no “away” any more, there is just the illusion of ‘away”. and from George Mitchell, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of New York, an op-ed for the Washington Post, arguing for increased regulation of fracking.

        “The rapid expansion of fracking has invited legitimate concerns about its impact on water, air and climate—concerns that the industry has attempted to gloss over,” they wrote. “Safely fracking natural gas can mean healthier communities, a cleaner environment and a reliable domestic energy supply.” Mitchell expressed himself more succinctly to his son-in-law Perry Lorenz, an Austin developer. “These damn cowboys will wreck the world in order to get an extra one per cent” of profit, Mitchell said. “You got to sit on them.” Unfortunately, Mitchell’s plea has gone unheeded in Texas.


        Sharon Wilson began volunteering for a group in Denton called Earthworks. In 2014, she became part of a successful campaign to ban fracking within the city limits. “It should send a signal to industry that if the people in Texas—where fracking was invented—can’t live with it nobody can,” Wilson said at the time.

        The state legislature, which is slavishly beholden to the oil-and-gas industry, soon passed a law prohibiting any such ban. Now cities in Texas have almost no recourse when the frackers move in.

        rich people are fooling themselves bigtime if they think they are escaping toxicity anywhere. they bring it with them with their lifestyles.

        1. Harry Cording

          “Away” is currently currently defined as a gassed up jet on standy to whisk them away to their property in New Zealand.
          OTOH, rich people includes a much, much larger group than the Corporate Person under discussion here (but thanks for assuming that) :-). The intended invisible ‘hand’ at work is that while the precariat may have first emerged in the rust belt circa 1980’s the scheme has advanced much farther along and up the economic ladder in this century, boosted first by both 9/11 and the non ending wars in the middle east and then next turbocharged by the 2008 soft coup of the bank bailouts. The Holder doctrine enshrined the new policy.
          Now, the new Trump tax bill specifically attacks the bottom 5% of the upper 10%. The Corporate Person has become very bold in the Trump era, working in broad daylight.
          The new tax plan attacking some of their own on the west coast and the northeast is simply a case of Neoliberal winners & Neoliberal losers. Suck it up losers!
          Does anyone think the upper 5% presume that they will be exempt from losing going forward?

          Here’s a link to a list of thirty two or so Robber Barons of the 19th Century. The new list won’t be a too much larger. One thing is for sure, the winners list won’t be anywhere near the top 5% of the population.
          There’s that invisible ‘hand’ still working just fine.
          And yet still we argue about trivialities down in the weeds.

    2. Arizona Slim

      There’s a frack gas line, the Mariner 2, that is being built in Chester County, PA. That’s the richest county in the state. And the locals are fighting back.

  7. russell1200

    If the State Constitution gives the State vs local municipalities the power to enforce XYandZ, then local municipalities who act in a contrary manner should expect push back.

    It works both way. Presumably in California/Maryland, towns and cities are not allowed to write their own gun control provisions. Otherwise you would have some towns permitting unlimited concealed and open carry.

    Given the prevalent NIMBY attitude in our country, its not surprising that States are reluctant to give too much authority to local governments. Shoot, in my town, they even ran off the local renaissance fair.

    1. ambrit

      In our ‘neck of the woods’ the Renaissance fair has to set up in an unincorporated region of a neighbhouring county.
      Can’t have all those wandering vagabonds, wastrels, gypsies, hedge wizards, crypto luddites, and “nonstandard” consumers infecting the civic soul of our stalwart, upright, law and order buttressing communities with their pernicious doctrines, can we?

    2. whiteylockmandoubled

      Where one vests power is always a big challenge. During the New Deal/Great society era, liberals and progressives tended to want power vested at the highest level of government as the longstanding New Deal coalition passed environmental, health, safety and labor protections, because, the thinking went, it was so easy to corrupt a local government.

      In theory, that’s why it might make sense to have state law on drinking water pre-empt local laws — if your town bans fracking and the next town doesn’t, your town will still likely get polluted. The problem, of course, is that when corporate interests capture state government, everyone gets fracked.

      Whenever there is a potential victory at the state or federal level on these kinds of issues, people involved in the fight should try to push for laws that set a floor for municipal actions, not fully pre-empt them.

    3. Fraibert

      Municipalities are, legally speaking, basically a special kind of state corporation, to which the state has delegated certain of its governing powers. A municipality has no independent legal existence beyond that which is granted by the state, so it’s hard to see how this was going to end well for Grant Township, especially as there is no constitutional right (at the federal level at least) to local governance.

  8. James McFadden

    For those interested in the battle against corporate personhood and corporate rule, you might want to check out Move to Amend which has compiled a lot of useful information on this subject.
    As we march in solidarity with women tomorrow, it is worth pondering the sad truth that corporations attained rights under the Bill of Rights before women did.
    Perhaps some of you maybe consider joining the effort against corporate rule.
    Move to Amend currently has over 50 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives of HJR 48.
    And even if you don’t think they have a chance to win, their information is a great for movement building.
    “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison
    The battle between humans and corporations over the future of humanity will be the great jihad of the 21st century — whether “pursuit of happiness” or “pursuit of profit” will rule the day.

  9. perpetualWAR

    Found the Grant Township Press Release:

    Letter from Grant Township to:
    Federal Court, Pennsylvania General Energy, and Those Who Will Stand for What’s Right

    Last week, federal Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter sanctioned two attorneys representing Grant Township for $52,000. Those attorneys – Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dunne – with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), have defended our community’s right to stop a toxic frack wastewater injection well for over three years. That well would receive 30,000 barrels of frack wastewater per month for 10 years – a toxic brew containing radioactive materials and other contaminants such as toluene and benzene, to be dumped into our Township.

    Judge Baxter’s ruling is astonishing, but not surprising. Our Township has been sold out and ignored by every level of government to date. We’ve received no relief from state or federal legislators, the courts, and even our own PA Department of Environmental Protection has sued us as we’ve tried to protect our environment.

    Although Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) – the company that wants to dump the waste – and its attorneys may wish that Grant Township is being led by its nose by CELDF, the truth is, Grant Township evolved, and evolved quickly. The Township is literally fighting for the life of its citizens in this case. PGE’s proposed injection well threatens to subject every resident of Grant Township to a slow poisoning, and threatens thousands more who depend on Grant Township’s watershed for clean water.

    During this fight, not one judge hearing the arguments in this case has ever asked any one of us, “why is your township subjecting itself to all this?” It’s assumed that we aren’t bright enough to possibly understand what we’re in this for, and why we have risked everything to protect our community.

    We understand that more regulations won’t help us. We understand that our legislators will continue to blame our problems on inadequate, underfunded, understaffed state agencies. We understand that an injection well for frack waste is a very bad idea, not only for the people who live here, but for the natural environment.

    We understand that the real problem isn’t the injection well, but the system of law that keeps trying to shut us down, and keeps telling us that we don’t have the right to protect our community from a company with a history of permit violations from dumping toxic frack waste where we live.

    We understand that the system of law that we live under doesn’t recognize the right of the people who live here to stop those projects which will harm us. It doesn’t recognize that we have a democratic right to say “no”, which is why we’ve worked with CELDF to advance arguments that we have a constitutional right to govern our own community, and that companies like PGE shouldn’t have more rights to decide what happens here than we do.

    We changed our system of government to save ourselves because no one else would or could. The people of the Township voted to adopt a new municipal charter which, again, bans the injection well as a violation of our basic civil rights.

    What else do we have to do – light ourselves on fire?

    While Judge Baxter and PGE’s lawyers, may wish that Grant Township’s government is a pawn, they are wrong. Our local government exists to keep the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens the priority. There’s no ladder-climbing, no plush benefits or pensions to offer up to anyone working for Grant Township. We are elected public servants who work with CELDF to make sure that we – those of us who live here – do what’s right for the people of Grant Township.

    We continue to work with CELDF, and very proudly so. CELDF has been on the front lines fighting the oil and gas industry for many years, and continues to stand with us during our fight. It’s Grant Township’s hope that our attorneys will wear this slap as a badge of courage, just as any front line veteran would wear a scar.

    This is bigger than just Grant Township, and we want others to join this fight by standing up to protect their communities. We’re not going anywhere.

    1. JBird

      During this fight, not one judge hearing the arguments in this case has ever asked any one of us, “why is your township subjecting itself to all this?” It’s assumed that we aren’t bright enough to possibly understand what we’re in this for, and why we have risked everything to protect our community.

      I have noticed an increasing level of, if not contempt, disrespect of the growing lower classes by the Elites and those who would like to think of themselves as not the Disposables. This is true regardless of the ostensible political ideologies. and religious beliefs, or social behaviors.

      Those who either have nothing, or have the real possibility of that condition, strongly hold onto their sense of respect for two reasons. The first is that the less you have the tighter the hold on what is left. The second is that being respected gives you position, power, and power, while being denied it makes it easier to mistreat, abuse, or just ignore you. It’s rather like what the police do to those that they victimized; That’s one of the reasons somebody in a poor part of the city, or a country dump, or in the bus seat across from you can be…overly sensitive to being disrespected. The disrespected are more likely to be hurt. If you have never been poor, or been connected socially, misunderstandings happen and it goes both ways.

      By not thinking of you as adults with real agency, needs, or honest beliefs, it is easier to discount and write such cowflop decisions. They are probably not even aware of doing so. It’s the most pernicious form of bias or discrimination. It’s unconscious, free floating, always present not only in yourself, but in all those around you, victimizers and often the victims too. Again like with the police and the courts and those supposed criminals that they abuse.

  10. L

    I used to live in Pennsylvania and sadly this is not unthinkable or even surprising. The state has elected judges and they are therefore … ahem sensitive to political fundraising.

    Moreover this kind of scorched earth punishment is not without precedent in the state. During a prior election the Republicans helped to get the Green party on the ballot through shady and ultimately illegal paid signature collection. The courts in their decision opted to punish the greens and personally fined the candidate six figures. Since then it has been surprisingly difficult to recruit third party challengers in the state.

  11. Amfortas the Hippie

    first, let me be clear(waves to nsa): I am not advocating anything, merely looking at the pieces on the board and making an assessment.
    That said, it seems that in the last couple of years that the corps and their big gov handmaidens have come out of the closet. there’s no longer much pretense that “we the people” matter all that much to folks in power(especially those paper folks who don’t really exist, yet have become the dominant form of life on this planet).
    the Social Contract has been whittled away for as long as I can remember(I’m 48), and is not even in the curriculum at the local ISD.
    The breaches of that Contract are becoming more and more shameless and in the open, and at some point, it can be expected that the losers in these fights(the People) will arrive at the conclusion that it’s all rigged, and realise that courts and regulations and all the rest are non-functional by design.
    when the state government won’t allow a town to protect it’s water, let alone it’s citizens, at some point that town might consider some form of secession…or even direct action…if not the town, then the constituent citizens.
    By so totally corrupting all government, the corps(e) and their minions are setting themselves up for revolution…Hobbseian, of course…and chaos.
    The philosopher kings embedded in these entities likely think of such chaos as good for them…I pray that they learn otherwise.
    Out here where I live, it ain’t oil and gas(we don’t have any), but the frac sand that is used in the extraction of those substances.
    my neighbors and I won the last round against a sand mine….but only due to the market situation at the time:it was cheaper for the sand corp to pull back and wait. They’ll be back when the market says it’s worth it.
    During the whole 3 year fight, it was obvious that we couldn’t win, for good and forever. the regulatory system is totally captured by industry…even the local water board is dominated by a former state congresscritter who is totally in the pocket.
    It will end up being something like a war, with us little local people doing what we can(“direct action”) in the night against an all powerful force with the backing of “legitimate” government.
    When the sand company seemed to go away, I admonished my neighbors that we were in this leaky boat because they had been fooled to vote for shysters all these years(because of the babies, of course), and that it was far from over. But the champaigne flowed and triumph was in their hearts, and no one would listen to the crazy hippie guy yelling about Doom.

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”-JFK

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