Republicans (and Democrats and Independents) have many reasons to support my campaign to become an appellate court judge in Pennsylvania. Some of these include conservation, limiting government to the Constitution, and the cost of government.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out on Monday, the Republican Party has an excellent history of conservation/environmental protection starting at the beginning of the 20th Century with President Theodore Roosevelt. Closer to our time, over a 6 year period (1965-1970) in which the PA State Senate was controlled by Republicans and the PA State House was sometimes controlled by Republicans and sometimes by Democrats, our legislature took strong measures to protect the environment, measures which were signed into law by a Republican governor. In addition, two sessions of the legislature passed, and the people voted by a four to one margin, to add an Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
As ConservationAdvocate.org reports:
Beginning in 1965, with the law bringing the coal companies under the clean streams laws, Pennsylvania’s legislature took a series of strong actions to nullify the Faustian bargain that had so long prevailed. Like a sleeping giant suddenly aroused in righteous anger, the next three legislative sessions enacted sweeping environmental laws on clean streams, surface mining, air pollution, mine land reclamation, solid waste management and creating a Department of Environmental Resources.
As part of this effort, the legislature twice approved and the people ratified by a four to one margin on May 18, 1971, what is now Article I, Section 27 of our state constitution.
That Environmental Rights Amendment reads:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
My argument has been that under the most recent Republican gubernatorial administration and the current Democratic one, Pennsylvania has been trying to ignore this amendment as it applies to the Marcellus Shale and the natural gas industry. For those who think that the amendment is merely nice poetry but has no real enforceability, the case of Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, decided in December of 2013, should put that to rest. In that case, the PA Supreme Court's opinion, written by a Republican chief justice, left no room to argue that exploitation of the Marcellus Shale is consistent with that amendment.
In striking down part of a law that allowed the DEP to violate muncipal setbacks from waterways to make it easier for the natural gas industry, the Court stated:
By any responsible account the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.
In this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer, it was reported that the Commonwealth has filed suit against Highland Township and Grant Township for prohibiting "underground injection control" of wastewater from fracking. This type of control has been linked to the massive increase in earthquakes occurring in Oklahoma. For those who try to nitpick and say that the amendment only specifies "clean air" and "pure water", the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's poetry (and precedential ruling) in Robinson Township belies that argument:
The terms "clean air" and "pure water" leave no doubt as to the importance of these specific qualities of the environment for the proponents of the constitutional amendment and for the ratifying voters. Moreover, the constitutional provision directs the "preservation" of broadly defined values of the environment, a construct that necessarily emphasizes the importance of each value separately, but also implicates a holistic analytical approach to ensure both the protection from harm or damage and to ensure the maintenance and perpetuation of an environmental quality for the benefit of future generations.
To the argument that allowing the shale industry to exploit our environment is necessary for our economy, the Court said, ". . . economic development cannot take place at the expense of an unreasonable degradation of the environment."
To the argument that, as trustee, the Commonwealth is the entity to decide how to act to protect the environment, the Court was clear: "The Commonwealth's obligation as trustee to conserve and maintain the public natural resources for the benefit of the people, including generations yet to come, create a right in the people to seek to enforce the obligations."
Just as Robinson Township, along with a Republican Supreme Court, rose up to stop a Republican Administration from cozying up to the shale industry in 2013, I hope that Highland and Grant Townships will be able to rise up, along with the current PA court system, to stop a Democratic Administration from cozying up to the shale industry in 2017.
Governments, both state and national, need to restrict their actions to those permitted under their respective Constitutions. That is what is meant by limited government, and it is up to our courts to make sure that government does not step over that line.
In addition, I have serious concerns about mass incarcerations, especially incarcerations for so-called "victimless crimes" (see my post on this topic) and even for non-violent crimes. The Constitutional concerns for both are obvious and for anyone concerned about budgets, the mass incarceration increases the cost of government enormously.
So all people, whether concerned about the environment, Constitutional government, or the costs of government should support putting me on an appellate court this year.