Nottingham residents codify their right to a healthy climate and Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance



Michelle Sanborn, New England Community Organizer

Nottingham, NH:  Last night, residents at Town Meeting in Nottingham, NH, adopted a rights-based ordinance asserting their right to a healthy climate, clean air, pure water, and local community self-government. The rights-based ordinance bans chemical trespass resulting from toxic waste disposal as a violation of those rights.

With the adoption of the Nottingham Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance, townspeople have empowered all inhabitants of the community with legal standing to protect both human and natural communities from corporate polluters.

“This is our town, our lives, and our future. No one cares more than we do what happens here. State and federal laws have failed to protect other communities surrounding us from hazardous waste dumping. We decided to protect ourselves before we become the next cancer cluster,” said Peter White of Nottingham Water Alliance.

The Town’s adoption of the law is a part of their long commitment to protect their water. Since 2007, Nottingham residents have worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect their community’s right to quality water. CELDF assisted them in drafting the Nottingham Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance in response to USA Springs corporation seeking to withdraw water from the community’s bedrock aquifer within the Lamprey River Watershed to bottle and sell for profit in Europe. Nottingham residents adopted the law in 2008, which bans corporate water withdrawals for resale.

CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn declared, “The residents of Nottingham have been engaged in local self-governance for over a decade, determined to protect their access to quality water within the town. They are an example to all of us that local democratic decision-making is not a spectator sport, but requires due diligence, determination, and persistence. The Nottingham story continues to inspire the Community Rights movement in New Hampshire.”

The growing Community Rights movement has gained momentum in the last two years, now driving forward a rights-based state constitutional amendment protecting the right to local self-governance. Residents from across the state are advancing the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment – CACR8 – which was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with CELDF’s assistance.


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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