The current structure of law in Pennsylvania systematically strips communities of the power to adopt laws to protect their health and safety, particularly when those laws come into direct conflict with corporate decisionmaking. This system thus prohibits communities from banning projects and activities that they consider dangerous and harmful – everything from corporate factory farms to the land dumping of sewage sludge and “hydro-fracking” for natural gas. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania communities have found out the hard way that the existing structure does not provide a remedy for these problems, and that a corporate minority, with the blessing of the state, has almost wholesale control over our communities on almost any issue that really matters.
Folks involved with the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network (PACRN) have seen this system for what it is. PACRN is a democratic, statewide organization focused on asserting fundamental rights to achieve constitutional change that liberates local community self-government.
PACRN has grown out of the local grassroots organizing that the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has assisted Pennsylvania communities with for over 15 years. That work includes assisting communities to draft Community Bills of Rights – in effect, local constitutions – that assert new civil and political rights for the community, and then prohibit those activities that would infringe on those rights.