It’s not every day that a public interest law firm and the communities it serves begin a movement! But what began over twenty years ago as an effort to help communities enforce the nation’s environmental laws, has now fully evolved into a resistance movement focused on driving rights for local self-determination and nature into the highest levels of law.
CELDF and our partner communities are leading the charge! This year was marked by several historic firsts —
- The adoption by Lafayette, Colorado’s City Council of the nation’s first “Climate Bill of Rights.” The ordnance bans fracking for natural gas in the City as a violation of the right of residents to a healthy climate, and the right of the climate itself to exist and flourish;
- CELDF litigated a case resulting in a landmark ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court overturned an Ohio statute — adopted by the Ohio legislature last year — that enabled local election boards to unilaterally deny ballot placement for local, rights-based laws;
- CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature met with Parliamentarians in Nepal and Sweden. Further, CELDF helped to draft new constitutional amendments and laws in India and Nepal that would recognize legal rights for ecosystems and nature;
- CELDF helped to draft and file the first lawsuit brought by the Colorado River, Colorado River State of Colorado. The River seeks constitutional recognition for its rights to exist and flourish;
- With Tulane Law School, CELDF co-hosted the first U.S. “Rights of Nature” Symposium, featuring speakers from Nepal, Australia, Ecuador, Sweden, tribal nations, and local communities. These key leaders spoke about the movement towards expanding legal rights for ecosystems and nature. Karenna Gore delivered the keynote at the conference;
- In New Hampshire, Ohio, and Oregon, CELDF Community Rights Networks continued to advance state-level constitutional amendments. The rights- based amendment would explicitly recognize the local authority of communities to adopt local bills of rights limiting corporate “rights” and recognizing rights for ecosystems and nature;
- The Arizona Journal of Environmental Law and Policy published “A Phoenix from the Ashes: Resurrecting a Constitutional Right of Local, Community Self- Government in the Name of Environmental Sustainability.” This is a CELDF law review article that explores the legal doctrine behind the Community Rights movement;
- CELDF led several workshops for tribal nations, including the tribes of the Colorado Plateau, the Chippewain Minnesota, andthe Ho-Chunkin Wisconsin, focused on establishing legal rights for ecosystems and nature within their tribal constitutions
- CELDF litigated a case resulting in a landmark ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court overturned an Ohio statute
Your support allows us to do what we do in the name of Community Rights and nature.
Along with these new initiatives, CELDF continues to support and defend those community partners who we’ve been fighting alongside over the past decade. Those include the people and elected officials of Grant Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania — recently featured in Rolling Stone magazine — who have steadfastly refused to allow an oil and gas company to inject fracking fluids into their Township. For the past five years, that epic battle between the company and the Township has raged, with the company forcing a jury trial on its claims against the Township for violating the company’s constitutional “rights.” On May 14, 2018, the people of Grant will collide with the oil and gas company in that trial, and CELDF will represent them.
Right down the road, the people of Highland Township, Elk County, are traveling a similar path. Unwilling to allow an oil and gas company to use their Township as a dumping ground for fracking waste, they too have made a stand of their own. CELDF stands with them.
There have been other “firsts” as well, which show the system in its true light. In response to Grant Township standing up against the oil and gas companies that seek to use Grant and other localities as dumping grounds, Grant was hit with another lawsuit from an unexpected source — the state itself. In March, the State’s Department of Environmental Protection sued Grant, seeking to overturn the Township’s ban on frack injection wells. Grant Township is fighting back, and CELDF stands with them.
A big thank you to everyone who has stood with CELDF over the years. Your support allows us to do what we do in the name of Community Rights and nature. If you’re not a supporter, please consider becoming one; and be- coming part of this resistance movement that is changing both the law and our culture.
Stand with us, so that we can continue to stand with the people across this country — and beyond — who are making a difference.
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Featured image: Occupy Sydney by Kate Ausburn Flickr Creative Commons