NABR Files Appeal Against Gaming Board’s Decision!

Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront (NABR) today joined with Bella Vista United Civic Association, The Friends of Penn Treaty Park, and numerous individuals in filing an appeal of the PA Gaming Control Board’s decision to put two casinos on the riverfront. The appeal alleges that the PA Gaming Control Board violated the PA Constitution by not considering environmental impacts.

According to Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

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 for all the people.

While the first part is a general grant of rights, the second requires that the state consider the impact on the environment, which — this appeal claims — the PA Gaming Control Board failed to do.

“The river belongs to us the citizens. To follow the constitution, the PA Gaming Control Board would have to have taken into account the implications of such major development. How does this affect the water we drink, which comes from the Delaware? What about the implications of asthma sufferers to bring more traffic into a congested area? — this in a city already rated as second worst in the country for asthma. None of these were reflected in the decision by the PA Gaming Control Board and we believe that’s unconstitutional,” says Caryn Hunt of NABR.

Along with organizations, plaintiffs included a boater, fisherman, environmentalist, pilot, and others who enjoy the benefits of living next to a river and who value clean air.

“This is one more way where the government is allowing the corporate casino industry to step all over us. They’ve already shown complete disregard to the impact of jobs on the port and small businesses, citizen’s own petitions to intervene, and to residents like myself who would have to put up with their problems. With this appeal, we are highlighting how the environment was disregarded, too,” says Ed Verral, one of the plaintiffs.

The river ecosystem contains a rich tapestry of environmental habitat, including threatened and endangered species. The SugarHouse site is built right along the habitat where at least one endangered species lives.

Foxwoods, in turn, is on what is known as a “brown fields” — a former industrial site which needs special care because often toxic materials lay in the ground. Further, problems in the area already are leading to backed up sewage resulting in severe flooding problems in the neighborhood.

Neither casino did a full environmental impact report. And as the decision was made on where to site casinos, the PA Gaming Control Board did not take into account the environmental implication.

NABR is represented by Paul Boni, a Philadelphia environmental and land use attorney, who explains, “This appeal asks the Supreme Court to invalidate the PA Gaming Control Board’s decision and return the matter back to the agency so they can fulfill their constitutional obligation to consider the environment impacts.”

In other words, do it right.

Read the appeal here (pdf).