Measure would secure the right of local community self-government



Michelle Sanborn, New Hampshire Community Organizer

CONCORD, NH:  Representative Ellen Read of Rockingham District 17 recently introduced a rights-based state constitutional amendment to guarantee the people in towns throughout New Hampshire the authority to enact local laws to protect the environment, and community and individual rights, free from state preemption and corporate interference.

Across the U.S., growing numbers of communities, organizations, and statewide networks are advancing similar democratic and environmental rights with the support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Communities in New Hampshire and beyond are facing increasing threats to health, safety, and welfare, from harms such as industrial wind projects, fracking, and others. In response, they are leveraging their inalienable right to govern themselves to advance local and state-level legislation codifying their rights. This includes the right to stop the harmful activity.

In New Hampshire, nearly a dozen local Community Rights laws (also known as “right-based ordinances” or RBOs), have been adopted by residents at Town Meeting. Granite Staters have stopped water mining, fossil fuel pipelines, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind turbines, and unsustainable fossil fuel-based energy distribution corridors.

That momentum led communities to draft a state constitutional amendment with CELDF and the New Hampshire Community Rights Network’s (NHCRN) assistance. The amendment would empower community members and local governments to establish greater protections for people and natural environments than in place at the state and federal level.

The proposed amendment, CACR19, is co-sponsored with bi-partisan support by Representatives: Suzanne Smith, Janice Schmidt, Raymond Howard, Stephen Darrow, Wayne Burton, Charlotte DiLorenzo, Steven Rand, and Vincent Paul Migliore.

Representative Read said, “Everyone agrees that the system is corrupt. Conservatives think the problem is with government, liberals think the problem is with corporations. The problem is actually the fact that they are one and the same thing, and are not separated.”

The New Hampshire Legislature held the first-in-the-nation public hearing on a “Community Rights” state constitutional amendment in 2016. Community members from across the Granite State testified before the House Legislative Administration committee in support of the measure. Despite having broad community support, the legislative committee blocked the Community Rights Amendment from going to the voters in 2016.

Michelle Sanborn, CELDF’s Community Rights Organizer and the NHCRN’s Coordinator, stated, “We are enthusiastic about the reintroduction of the Community Rights Amendment by Representative Ellen Read. The Community Rights movement has continued to grow at the local and state level, leading us to form additional relationships with state elected officials since our first effort in 2016. We are setting our sights on the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session with focused expectations.”

New Hampshire joins state Community Rights Networks in Colorado, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where residents are advancing similar state constitutional amendments.

New Hampshire Part of Growing Movement

New Hampshire residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Community Rights, contact CELDF at To learn about the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, visit Select Boards and citizens interested in supporting the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment may contact Michelle Sanborn at

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.


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