Press Release: Pennsylvania Township is Second to Strip Sludge Corporations of “Rights” - Joins Tamaqua Borough to Become Second Municipality in the United States to Recognize the Rights of NatureSeptember 28th, 2006
Sludge Corporations of “Rights”
Joins Tamaqua Borough to Become Second Municipality in the United States to Recognize the Rights of Nature
CONTACT: Ben Price, Projects Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (September 28) – On September 27th, 2006, the Board of Supervisors for Rush Township in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, passed a law declaring that sludge and dredge corporations possess no constitutional “rights” within the community. Rush thus becomes the sixth local government in the country to abolish the illegitimate “rights” and legal privileges claimed by corporations. Corporate managers in Pennsylvania and around the nation effortlessly wield those constitutional “rights” and legal privileges to dictate corporate values and nullify local laws.
The Rush Township law also (1) bans corporations from engaging in the land application of sludge within the Township; (2) recognizes that ecosystems in Rush possess enforceable rights against corporations; (3) asserts that corporations doing business in Rush will henceforth be treated as “state actors” under the law, and thus, be required to respect the rights of people and natural communities within the Township; and (4) establishes that Rush residents can bring lawsuits to vindicate not only their own civil rights, but also the newly-mandated rights of Nature.
In the ordinance, the Township Board of Supervisors declared that if state and federal agencies – or corporate managers – attempt to invalidate the ordinance, a Township-wide public meeting would be hosted to determine additional steps to expand local control and self-governance within the Township.
Adoption of the ordinance came just eight days after the neighboring Borough of Tamaqua passed a similar law.
Ben Price, the Projects Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the organization that helped draft the Ordinance said, “The Rush Township Board of Supervisors has taken a stand to protect the people and environment within their community. It is no small step for a Township to expand its citizens’ right to a clean environment, and to make that right enforceable in law. It is equally significant that a second rural community in Pennsylvania now recognizes that the natural world, on which all life depends, has rights that are legally defendable. In these two Pennsylvania communities, people and nature now have rights that supersede those of mere sludge hauling corporations. The Rush Township Supervisors made history by exercising their democratic self-governing authority over a minority of people using the privileges conferred by corporate law.”
Richard Grossman, the Legal Defense Fund's historian, noted: "A slave system once drove the entire country, North and South. Our nation is now governed by a corporate system. Like the slave system, today's corporate system easily denies fundamental rights of people and communities.
"Rush and Tamaqua have joined 100 other Pennsylvania municipalities in exposing the constitutional, legal and cultural chains that bind communities to the corporate system. And they have nullified corporate privilege delivered from on high with We the People's democratic rule of law from below."
The Rush ordinance is the result of countrywide ferment against state regulatory agency interference in local decision-making on behalf of sludge and dredge corporations. Thousands of people in Schuylkill County now see that regulatory agencies help corporate managers dump their toxins, pathogens and carcinogens in people's front yards. They reject, for example, the Commonwealth's plans to permit the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (LC&N) to dump millions of tons of trucked-in Hudson and Delaware River muck mixed with coal ash and kiln dust into the gaping Springdale Coal Pit, the same earthen wound from which LC&N extracted coal for generations. And they reject federally funded and state subsidized energy investments poised to invade the County, beginning with a coal to diesel factory being forced on Mahanoy Township.
Schuylkill County has a long history of people's struggles to wrest rights and governance from oppressive corporate railroad and coal barons. As Prof. Grace Palladino has detailed in her gripping history, Another Civil War - Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868, “in the coal regions… corporate lawyers and government officials creatively interpreted the law. Industrialists retained a remarkable ability to command the coercive power of the state to protect their particular economic interests.” Since the 1840s, corporations have used the county as a resource colony. Today, state and federal government officials join corporate directors in viewing Schuylkill County as a "sacrifice zone" where they can simply plug the old corporate holes that enriched a few tyrants with new corporate poisons that help fuel today’s corporate system.
Schuylkill citizens are fighting back, like their mothers and fathers. These modern Molly Maguires are mobilizing to pass local laws. In other words, they still hope they can create democratic self-governance in this county.
All around Schuylkill, high-spirited citizen meetings are demonstrating popular demand for local lawmakers to exert real governing authority over corporations and their communities' futures. Indeed, East Brunswick Township Supervisors voted on September 25th to advertise a similar ordinance. Other municipalities in Schuylkill County are expected to do the same in the coming weeks.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.