The wide spread impact of the community rights movement is growing and it is exciting. As local communities champion common sense with regard to our natural resources and our rights as individuals and communities, little by little – one plus one – we are protecting our environment and securing an equitable future. We can stop unconventional gas drilling, we can stop pollution from factory farms, we can stop prisons that have instituted what amounts to slave labor – and we can do all this when we reclaim what is rightfully ours and what is protected within our Bill of Rights.
New York State has just enjoyed a landmark decision affecting the future viability of fracking in the state. The local communities of Dryden and Middlefield banned fracking in order to protect the health, environment, and character of their communities. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that towns have the authority to ban gas drilling within their borders, in a 5 – 2 decision.
This is a huge victory for community rights and the implications are far-reaching. The town supervisor of Dryden, May Anne Sumne said, “The oil and gas industry tried to bully us into backing down, but we took our fight all the way to New York’s highest court.” She added, “I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere who are also trying to do what’s right for their own communities.”
Pittsburgh has passed a local ordinance banning the commercial extraction of natural gas, Spokane is creating a Community Bill of Rights that includes local neighborhood authority of development, protection of river and drinking water, a constitutional protection fro all workers, and eliminating the status of corporations as “persons” under the law.
Benton, Oregon is asserting it’s right to petition for a local ordinance that will ensure a sustainable food system, seed heritage and inalienable right of nature to exist and flourish. Portland is also on board to place a ballot initiative for a Portland Community Bill of Rights. Included in the Bill is a the right to affordable, safe housing and the right to subordinate corporate powers to people’s rights: in other words, “Corporations and other business entities which violate the rights secured by this Charter shall not be deemed to be “persons,” nor possess any other legal rights, privileges, powers, or protections which would interfere with the enforcement of rights enumerated by this Charter.”
As noted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, “There is a structure of state and federal law in place that pre-empts local decision making, and that forces harmful activities such as fracking and factory farming into communities – despite community opposition and harm to the public health and environment.”
Community Rights ordinances, such as those passed in New York and Oregon serve as templates for a new wave of activism and the tide, my friends, is rising.