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Federal Magistrate Judge Allows Suit Challenging Pennsylvania Township's Injection Well Ban To Proceed

On March 29, Federal Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter dismissed a motion made by Highland Township in Elk County, PA (the “Township”) and allowed a suit brought by Seneca Resources Corporation (“Seneca”) to proceed. The action filed by Seneca challenges an ordinance banning injection wells within the Township. Prior to the filing of the suit, Seneca had received a federal permit from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to convert some of its natural gas wells in the Township into underground injection wells. Seneca then applied for a permit from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), and the DEP indicated that it was suspending any review of the permit application in light of the conflict with the Township’s ordinance. Seneca filed its complaint on February 18, 2015, stating that the ordinance violates the state and federal Constitutions and is preempted by several state and federal laws. The Township filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, alleging that Seneca did not have standing to challenge the ordinance. The Judge denied the Township’s motion to dismiss and held that Seneca does have standing to proceed with its suit. The Judge found that Seneca had met all of the requirements for demonstrating constitutional standing. Seneca sustained and continues to sustain injury as a result of the ordinance, because the DEP suspended its review of Seneca’s permit application due to the conflict with the ordinance. In addition, Seneca demonstrated that a favorable decision is substantially likely to redress the injury, because it would remove the ordinance as an impediment to the DEP’s review of Seneca’s permit application.