Exeter residents build on growing rights-based efforts to stop climate change




Michelle Sanborn, New England Community Organizer

EXETER, NH: At annual Town Meeting yesterday, Exeter residents voted 1176 to 1007 to adopt their Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance. This is the first right-based climate law in the state of New Hampshire. The ordinance asserts the community’s rights to clean air, pure water, and local community self-government. It bans corporate activities that release toxic contaminates into the air, water, and soil as a violation of those rights.

Exeter community members face Liberty Utility’s proposed 27-mile long Granite Bridge fracked gas pipeline project, which is slated to cross eight New Hampshire towns. The project threatens to contaminate the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water.

Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment (CAEE), declared, “Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights.”

CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn said, “The residents of Exeter are well-organized, informed, and engaged. At Town Meeting, they made real their individual and collective right to make local governing decisions that protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents and ecosystems within the town. Exeter is joining a growing Community Rights movement in New Hampshire.”

Part of that growing movement is also a rights-based state constitutional amendment. 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 assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF also assisted Exeter residents in drafting their rights-based ordinance.

Representative Ellen Read of Newmarket is sponsoring the CACR8, with bi-partisan support from nine Representative co-sponsors. 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. Oregon and Ohio residents are advancing similar rights-based state constitutional measures.

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: Exeter, NH, by Selbe in Flickr Creative Commons

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