Lafayette, Co, Law Builds on Growing Rights-Based Efforts to Stop Climate Change



Stacey Schmader
Administrative Director

LAFAYETTE, CO:  On March 22nd, the City Council ofLafayette, Colorado, became the first municipality in the state to recognize a right to a healthy climate for people and nature, and to ban the extraction of oil and gas as a violation of that right.

The Ordinance was drafted by the Boulder County Protectors, with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).

The Lafayette Ordinance is one of several across the United States to assert the right to climate.  The “right to a healthy climate” was recently recognized as a federal constitutional right by Judge Ann Aiken of the United States District Court in Oregon.

In Spokane, Washington, a federal lawsuit has been filed which seeks a finding that the rail transportation of oil and coal violates the right to climate for Spokane residents. In Bowling Green, Ohio, community members recently launched a campaign to qualify a right to climate initiative to the November ballot. CELDF is providing assistance to each community.


lafayette, co: right to climate ordinance

The original draft of the Ordinance prohibited local law enforcement from arresting people using nonviolent civil disobedience to enforce the law, in the event of a judicial ruling overturning of the Ordinance. These provisions were included in recognition of recent Colorado Supreme Court rulings which have declared that municipalities lack the legal authority to ban oil and gas extraction.

Prior to passage, the Council removed the civil disobedience provisions over the objections of both the Boulder County Protectors and the primary sponsor of the legislation, Councilwoman Merrily Mazza.

Councilwoman Mazza declared, “In light of Colorado court rulings, this Ordinance is one small step toward building a system of law which recognizes our rights over the rights of oil and gas corporations. The Council had an opportunity, however, to do something even bigger here – remove the authority of government to punish those who understand that the Colorado Supreme Court has acted illegally in tying the hands of municipal governments to ban oil and gas extraction.”

Mazza further explained, “We had a chance to support a new movement of civil disobedience, one which understands that the courts and our state governments are merely doing the bidding of the oil and gas corporations.  If we are to protect the climate, we can no longer rely on those institutions to do what is right.”

Although oil and gas extraction in Lafayette is not imminent, the Ordinance may be challenged by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), which has previously filed challenges to overturn local laws seeking to stop oil and gas extraction. As included within its provisions, the Ordinance may be used proactively to protect the right to climate against oil and gas extraction currently planned for neighboring communities.


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.


Featured image: Mountains blending with sky by Let Ideas Compete, Flickr Creative Commons.
Lafayette, CO

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