Measure Would Secure the Right of Local Community Self-Government – to Protect the Rights of People, Communities, and Nature



Michelle Sanborn
New Hampshire Community Organizer


Concord – Language for a state constitutional amendment drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), at the request of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN), has been introduced to the legislature by Representative Susan Emerson (R-Cheshire District 11). The proposed amendment (LSR#2016-2352 HCACR) would guarantee the people in towns throughout New Hampshire the authority to enact local laws to protect the environment, as well as community and individual rights, free from state preemption and corporate interference. Representative Emerson said she is proud to sponsor this amendment to “ensure that the people directly affected by governing decisions have the last word.”

The amendment is titled the “Right of Local Community Self-Government Amendment.” The path leading to its legislative introduction began in Town Meetings across the state, where CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights laws have been introduced as warrant articles. The laws protect communities from the violation of their rights by a long list of corporate harms, including water mining, fossil fuel pipelines, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind turbines, and unsustainable fossil fuel-based energy distribution corridors.

While the local laws have successfully protected communities from environmental and other harms, too often they have been resisted or rejected by misguided concerns over whether people have the authority to legislate locally to protect their own health, safety, quality of life and natural environment when the state issues permits to corporations purporting to “legalize” those harms. The goal of the proposed amendment is to codify , as a state constitutional guarantee, the right of self-government at the local level, so that the rights of people and nature can be protected from, rather than made subordinate to, corporate power and privilege.

Representative Emerson has shared the amendment language with fellow law-makers and anticipates broad interest and the signing on of co-sponsors. The NHCRN sought and received her pledge to sponsor the measure, saying that she immediately saw its importance. Rep. Emerson stated, “The amendment is needed because when it comes to protecting the inalienable rights of citizens in our local communities, neither they nor their local governments should be told they cannot enact local laws to do just that.”

Rep. Emerson added, “Too often the interests of big corporations are considered, and the rights of our constituents are ignored, when we in the legislature enact preemptions that forbid local lawmaking. And too often wealthy corporations threaten to bankrupt towns that stand up to them. This amendment will put self-government at the local level back into the hands of the people.”

“We call upon all the legislators of New Hampshire to rise up and represent the communities of this fine state by supporting the proposed Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment to our State Constitution,” said Michelle Sanborn, CELDF Community Rights Organizer. “This amendment would recognize the authority of communities to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and their natural environments by prohibiting activities that would threaten those rights.”

Select Boards and citizens interested in supporting the Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment may contact Michelle Sanborn at

Through grassroots organizing and the practice of public interest law, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights.


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