United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
PARADISE BAXTER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Municipal Authority's Motion to Intervene
Seneca Resources Corporation (“Seneca Resources”)
brought this action to challenge the constitutionality,
enforceability, and validity of the Home Rule Charter (the
“Charter”) in Highland Township. Named as
Defendants to this action are: Highland Township and the
Township's Board of Supervisors.
before the Court is a motion to intervene filed by Proposed
Intervenor, the Highland Township Municipal Authority
(“Municipal Authority”). ECF No. 34. For the
following reasons, the Municipal Authority's motion to
intervene will be denied.
Resources, a corporation engaged in oil and gas exploration
and production, initiated this action on November 30, 2016,
challenging the Home Rule Charter which bans Seneca
Resources' ability to create and operate an injection
well within the Township. ECF No. 1, page 1. Seneca Resources
has requested that the Court strike the entire Home Rule
Charter and temporarily and permanently enjoin Highland
Township and the Board of Supervisors (the
“Board”) from enforcing the Charter. Id.
Municipal Authority seeks to intervene, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule24(a), and alternatively, Fed.R.Civ.P.
24(b), in order to defend the Charter and bring
counterclaims against Seneca Resources. Both Plaintiff
and Defendants oppose this motion to intervene.
under Federal Rule 24
provides for intervention as a matter of right and permissive
intervention. Fed.R.Civ.P.24 (a) and (b). To qualify for
intervention as a matter of right under Rule 24(a)(2), four
requirements must be met: 1) the application must be timely,
2) the applicant must have sufficient interest in the
lawsuit, 3) the interest must be affected or impaired by the
disposition of the lawsuit, and 4) the interest must not be
adequately represented by an existing party. United
States v. Territory of the Virgin Islands, 748 F.3d 514,
519 (3d Cir. 2014). Additionally, it is required that each of
the four elements be met separately to intervene as of right.
Id. It is the burden of the party seeking
intervention to satisfy all four requirements. Liberty
Mut. Ins. Co. v. Treesdale, Inc., 419 F.3d 216, 220 (3d
contrast, permissive intervention relies upon the discretion
of the Court when an applicant “has a claim or defense
that shares with the main action a common question of law or
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(1)(B). Important
considerations for the Court in making this determination are
whether intervention would prejudice a party by delay or
otherwise, and whether intervention is necessary to protect
rights that are not identical to an existing party.
Virgin Islands, 748 F.3d at 524. “The court
may consider the same facts and circumstances used to
determine whether intervention was appropriate under Rule
24(a) to determine whether the court should use its
discretion to permit intervention under Rule 24(b).
Community Vocational Schools of Pittsburgh, Inc. v.
Mildon Bus Lines, Inc., 2017 WL 1376298, at *8 (W.D. Pa.
Apr. 17, 2017) (internal citations omitted).
case and the current motion closely track a previous action
involving Seneca Resources and the Defendants. See Seneca
Resources Corp. v. Highland Township, C.A. No.
1:15-cv-00060. There, the Municipal Authority, along with two
other proposed intervenors, attempted to intervene in an
effort to defend the Township's Community Bill of Rights
Ordinance (the “Ordinance”). Unlike the Home Rule
Charter at issue in the present case, the disputed Ordinance
was passed by the former Board of Supervisors in 2013-2014.
The Ordinance prohibited the operation of underground
injection control wells to dispose of waste water from oil
and gas extraction within the Township.
Court denied the motion to intervene on the grounds that the
proposed intervenors failed to provide clear and convincing
evidence to show that the Township and Board did not
adequately represent their interests. Later, the Board of
Supervisors rescinded the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance
and reached a settlement that resulted in the entry of a
Stipulation and Consent Decree (“Consent
Decree”). The Consent Decree entered into between
Seneca Resources and Highland Township and its Board of
Supervisors specifically provided that portions of the
Community Bill of Rights Ordinance were unconstitutional,
unenforceable and invalid. Seneca Resources Corp. v.
Highland Township, C.A. No. 1:15-cv-00060: ECF No. 82.
response, the proposed intervenors appealed the denial of the
motion to intervene, the adoption of the Consent Decree, as
well as motions for reconsideration of each. The Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit held: 1) the motion to
intervene to defend the Ordinance was rendered moot by the
Ordinance's repeal; 2) district court did not abuse its
discretion in denying the proposed intervenors' motion to
reconsider the order denying their motion to intervene to
challenge the consent decree; and 3) the proposed intervenors
lacked standing to challenge the consent decree. Seneca
Resources Corp. v. Township of Highland, 863 F.3d 245
(3d Cir. Jul.17, 2017).
November 8, 2016, by popular vote, the citizens of Highland
Township, adopted the challenged Home Rule Charter pursuant
to Pennsylvania's Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans
Law, 53 Pa. C.S.A. §290. ECF No. 1-1, page 3. The
Charter functions as a local constitution and promises to
guarantee and protect a range of rights, including
“community and ecosystem rights above the claimed
rights of corporations and to prohibit frack wastewater
injection wells.” ECF No. 34-1, page 1. Additionally,
the Home Rule Charter purports to provide the right to
self-government in the local community free from interference
by the state or federal government. ECF No. 1-1, page 5.
Parties and the Proposed Intervenor
essential to understand the structure and powers of the
Proposed Intervenor the Municipal Authority as they relate to
those of the Defendant Board of Supervisors. The Board of
Supervisors consists of three representatives elected by the
citizens of Highland Township and acts as the governing body
of the Home Rule municipality. ECF No. 1-1, page 3. As stated
in the Defendants' Answer, the Board had no part in the
adoption of the Home Rule Charter nor does it have the
authority to repeal or amend the Charter. ECF No. 15, pages
2-3. Further, the Board acknowledged arguing against the
initial adoption of the Home Rule Charter and acknowledges
that several portions “appear to be void and
unenforceable under current state or federal law.”
Id. Further, the Board admits to a
significant portion of the allegations but further maintains
that the Board of Supervisors has no applicable authority to
authorize any changes to the Home Rule Charter. Id.
Only the Township's citizens have authority to make
changes to the Charter.
Intervenor, the Municipal Authority, is a Pennsylvania
municipal authority formed by and operating under the
Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act, 53 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§5601 and is classified as a quasi-governmental body.
ECF No. 34-1, pages 11, 20. It is a separate entity of the
local government, within Highland Township, and is an
independent agency of the Commonwealth. Under the
Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act, municipal authorities
generally have the purpose of “acquiring, holding,
constructing, financing, improving, maintaining and
operating, owning or leasing, either in the capacity of
lessor or lessee, projects” including
“waterworks, water supply works, [and] water
distribution systems.” 53 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§5607(a). Although the Board of Supervisors is allowed
to appoint members to the Municipal Authority, the Municipal
Authority argues that its mission is separate from the Board
and argues that its functions are mandated by the public:
“the public approves of the Municipal Authority's
operations…[and entrusts it] to care for the Crystal
Spring, and to administer distribution of its water to the