What an amazing year! Working with CELDF, the people of Grant and Highland Township in rural Pennsylvania became the first communities in the nation to draft and adopt home rule charters that enshrine local bills of rights. Previously, they were the first communities in the nation to ban frack wastewater injection wells. They were also the first to have Pennsylvania’s state environmental agency suspend the issuing of injection well permits based on the adoption of their local bills of rights.
Ohioans demonstrated their tenacity and grit as they refused to take “No” for an answer from the corporate state. Residents are refusing fracking activities.
And with CELDF’s support they are standing their ground for their right to local community self-government, as representatives and the judiciary tell them they have no such right. The people of Ohio are not folding. They continue advancing Community Bills of Rights codifying clean air and water, local self-government, and rights of nature, as inalienable and indelible rights. This month, the City of Waterville became a part of the growing numbers of Ohio communities working with CELDF and adopting rights-based laws in defiance of the state and the oil and gas industry.
Oregonians are steadfast and resolute: like Ohioans, their local elected officials, the judiciary, and the state told them they have no right to protect their communities and govern themselves. Oregonians assert they do, and also continue advancing CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights to protect against fossil fuel infrastructure, aerial pesticide spraying, and GMOs.
The people of Tacoma, WA, rolled up their sleeves last spring, gathering an astounding 17,000 signatures in less than 100 days to advance two Community Bill of Rights protecting their water from the world’s largest methanol plant. While the corporate state there, as well, tells them they have no right to do so, Tacomans insist otherwise, and are partnering with CELDF to protect their water.
And for the first time in the U.S., a Community Rights state constitutional amendment received endorsements from New Hampshire house and senate representatives. While the amendment did not advance past the committee hearing, Granite Staters are looking ahead to 2017–2018 to move it forward again. Coloradans and Oregonians advanced similar measures with CELDF’s support.
These courageous communities have emerged from two decades of groundwork laid by CELDF and other partner communities from across the country: people using their lawmaking power to ban fracking, factory farms, and corporate water withdrawals, directly challenging a system of law that recognizes corporations as having more rights than the communities in which they operate. These are people confronting key barriers to self-governance and sustainability, such as corporate constitutional “rights,” in the places where they live.
What else tops off 2016? The story of CELDF and these communities is being told through We the People 2.0 — The Second American Revolution, the new documentary released last month and being screened across the country. As a companion to the film, our story is being told through a new book, We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States.
And our story is told by people like you, when you share our work with others and help us grow, building a new movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature.
As this movement builds, so do the attacks. The oil and gas industry sued a slew of communities working to ban fracking, and has sought monetary sanctions against
CELDF for defending the rights of those communities to say “no” to fracking. As of the printing of this newsletter, at least one such industry effort has been pushed back. However, we believe these attacks are indicators of the opposition to come.
In addition to suing communities and demanding sanctions against CELDF, corporations affected by Community Bills of Rights laws are now suing to keep these measures off the ballot all together. In Oregon, Washington, and Ohio, corporations are working to block citizen initiatives, preventing residents from voting on their own proposed laws. Those corporations are becoming increasingly successful in their efforts, blocking people from exercising their basic democratic rights. In Washington, they’ve obtained court rulings that make it exceedingly difficult for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot.
Even with these attacks — or because of them — the Community Rights Movement continues to grow. As people come face-to-face with a legal structure that forces harmful projects into their communities, they realize that we are caught in a system that forces us to be silent as our communities are exploited and the planet is destroyed. Our community leaders have pledged that they will not be silent, and that they will not yield. It is CELDF’s mission to help them.
It is your support that makes our mission possible! Please help us enter 2017 strong, solid, and prepared to stand with these courageous communities, and the growing numbers of other communities joining them. We – and our partners – thank you for your support!
Together, we are building a new movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature.