A Community-Rights Campaign Overwhelmingly Succeeds!
In March 2011, a group of State College residents, led by Braden Crooks, was looking ahead over the next 5 years. They realized within that time frame, the dangers of shale-gas drilling—the poisoned water supplies, the pollution, the destruction of the natural landscapes, the ruination of whole communities—would be at their doorstep. Rather than wait, rather than ignore the headlines from other parts of the region, rather than listen to party lines about how cleaner technologies are right around the corner, they met it head on, taking steps to ensure that the future of State College stays in the hands of its citizens.
They contacted CELDF and determined to write a Community Bill of Rights amendment to their municipal home rule charter, to guarantee the right to clean water, to clean air and a healthy, sustainable way of life, and to prohibit shale gas drilling and fracking. With a Community Bill of Rights in place, they knew that they—the citizens of State College—would be taking charge of what happens within their community.
State College residents have the good fortune to live in a Home Rule Chartered community, meaning they have the power to amend their charter by popular vote. And amend it they did—overwhelmingly. After collecting the 1,000 signatures necessary to place the proposal to amend their charter on the ballot, they campaigned thoroughly and passionately, insisting the residents of State College have a right to a healthy environment, to sustainable energy systems and local policy to make them real, as well as a right to the peaceful enjoyment of the community. They insisted on their inalienable right to local self-government so that the people living in State College can determine the future they believe will sustain the aspirations they have for their their community.
On November 8, 2011, the residents of State College voted overwhelmingly—72%—to amend their Home Rule Charter to include a Community Bill of Rights. Their message to their local officials and across the state of Pennsylvania was clear: The residents of State College have a right to clean water, clean air, a healthy environment, a sustainable future, and the right to decide what happens, where they live—including banning the commercial extraction of shell gas within the borough. And State College goes down in history as the first community in the United States to enact a Community Bill of Rights by popular vote.