Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Penn Ridge Coal, LLC v. Blaine Township

September 16, 2009

PENN RIDGE COAL, LLC AND ALLEGHENY PITTSBURGH COAL COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BLAINE TOWNSHIP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER OF THE COURT

Synopsis

Plaintiffs Penn Ridge Coal, LLC and Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company commenced this action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as damages, against Defendant Blaine Township (the "Township") on the grounds that certain ordinances passed by the Township purporting to strip Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights and preventing Plaintiffs from mining within the Township are unconstitutional. The Township's prior motion to dismiss the Complaint was denied in its entirety, by opinion and order dated April 8, 2009. (Docket No. 30.) Plaintiffs have now moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the ordinances are unconstitutional, preempted by state law, and/or constitute an impermissible exercise of the Township's legislative authority. For the reasons set forth below, I grant Plaintiffs' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

I. Applicable Standards

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) states: "Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. After the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." (West 2008). "Judgment will not be granted unless the movant clearly establishes there are not material issues of fact, and he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Milgrub v. Continental Cas. Co., 2007 WL 625039, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 22, 2007) (quoting Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005)). "The Court must view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id.

II. Factual Allegations

A. The Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs' factual allegations were set forth in detail in my prior opinion denying the Township's motion to dismiss, but I will reiterate them in relevant part for the sake of clarity herein. Plaintiff Penn Ridge Coal, LLC ("Penn Ridge") is a Delaware limited liability company with offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Complaint [Docket No. 1], at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company ("Allegheny Pittsburgh") is a Pennsylvania corporation with offices in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶2.) Allegheny Pittsburgh owns approximately 10.6 million recoverable tons of coal reserves in Blaine Township. (Id. at ¶ 57.) These reserves are part of an approximately 56 million tons of recoverable coal reserves (the "Buffalo Reserve") that Allegheny Pittsburgh owns in Blaine Township and surrounding areas. (Id.)

Penn Ridge is a party to a coal lease (the "Coal Lease") with Allegheny Pittsburgh relating to the Buffalo Reserve, including the portion in Blaine Township. (Id. at ¶ 58.) Pursuant to the Coal Lease, Penn Ridge plans to develop, open and operate a coal mine to extract coal from the Buffalo Reserve. (Id. at ¶ 59.) Penn Ridge anticipates selling all or part of the coal produced from the Buffalo Reserve to utility companies for use at coal-fired power plants. (Id. at ¶ 60.) Penn Ridge's estimated capital costs involved in developing the mine in the Buffalo Reserve are between $165 million and $175 million. (Id. at ¶ 59.)

B. The Township Ordinances

The Township is a second class township located in Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 3.) On October 16, 2006, the Township adopted an ordinance (the "Corporate Rights Ordinance") bearing the title "An Ordinance by the Second Class Township of Blaine Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, Eliminating Legal Powers and Privileges from Corporations Doing Business Within Blaine Township to Vindicate People's Right to Democratic Self-Governance." (Id. at ¶ 26.) An copy of the Corporate Rights Ordinance is annexed to Plaintiffs' motion as Exhibit 1. (Docket No. 42-2.)

The Corporate Rights Ordinance provides, in relevant part: Section 3. Findings and General Purpose. The Blaine Township Board of Supervisors recognizes that:

(1) A corporation is a legal fiction created and operated by the express permission of the people of Blaine Township as citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;

(2) Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by unelected Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term "persons" has long denied the peoples' exercise of rights by endowing corporations with constitutional privileges intended solely to protect the citizens of the United States or natural persons within its borders. Enforcement of those corporate "rights" by courts and governments has long wrought havoc on the peoples' democratic process;

(3) Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by Supreme Court justices to afford corporations the protections of the Commerce Clause (Article I, § 8 of the Constitution of the United States) and the Contracts Clause (Article I, § 10 of the Constitution of the United States) has prevented communities and governments from securing the health, safety, welfare, and rights of citizens and natural persons; . . . .

Section 4. Specific Purpose. The specific purpose of this Ordinance is to guarantee to the residents of Blaine Township their right to a republican form of governance by refusing to recognize the purported constitutional rights of corporations. By doing so, the Board of Supervisors seeks to remedy current and future harms that corporations have caused - and will continue to cause - to the people of Blaine Township by the exercise of such "rights."

Section 5. Statement of Law. Corporations shall not be considered to be "persons" protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within the Second Class Township of Blaine, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Section 6. Statement of Law. Within Blaine Township, corporations shall not be "persons" under the United States or Pennsylvania Constitutions, or under the laws of the United States, Pennsylvania, or Blaine Township, and so shall not have the rights of persons under those constitutions and laws. In addition, within the Township of Blaine, no corporation shall be afforded the privileges, powers, and protections of the Contracts Clause or Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, or of similar provisions from the Pennsylvania Constitution. Section 7. People's Right to Self-Governance and Right of Separation. The foundation for the making and adoption of this law is the people's fundamental and inalienable right to govern themselves, and thereby secure our rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Any attempts to use county, state, or federal levels of government - judicial, legislative, or executive - to preempt, amend, alter, or overturn this Ordinance or parts of this Ordinance, or to intimidate the people of Blaine Township or their elected officials, shall require the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to hold public meetings that explore the adoption of other measures that expand local control and the ability of residents to protect their fundamental and inalienable right to self-government. Such consideration may include actions to separate the municipality from the other levels of government used to preempt, amend, alter, or overturn the provisions of this Ordinance or other levels of government used to intimidate the people of Blaine Township or their elected officials. (Id. at 2-3.)

On April 28, 2008, the Township passed Ordinance O-002-2008, entitled "Blaine Township Corporate Disclosure and Environmental Protection Ordinance" (the "Disclosure Ordinance"). A copy of the Disclosure Ordinance is annexed to Plaintiffs' motion as Exhibit 2. (Docket No. 42-3.) The Disclosure Ordinance requires corporations doing business in the Township to submit an extensive disclosure form to the Township either prior to commencing business, or if already doing business within the Township, within sixty (60) days of adoption of the Disclosure Ordinance. [Docket No. 42-3, at § 5.] The disclosure obligations include, but are not limited to:

* "details that describe the nature and extent of the business pursued, or to be pursued. . .with such particularity to enable the Supervisors and residents of Blaine Township to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.