A town has refused to defend residents’ Right to a Healthy Climate law against a corporate ‘rights’ lawsuit. Residents demand they be allowed to defend their law in court.


Michelle Sanborn
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
New England Community Organizer

NOTTINGHAM, NH: Community group Nottingham Water Alliance is appealing to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. They want a chance to defend a citizen-initiated ordinance adopted at their 2019 Town Meeting. The Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance secures the right of townspeople to a climate system capable of sustaining human societies, bans all corporate activities that infringe that right, and grants residents the right to defend the law in court. The Town of Nottingham has refused to defend the ordinance from a corporate lawsuit, and residents have not been allowed to intervene, leaving the ordinance undefended.

Ongoing violations against ecosystems continue. “The [nearby] Coakley Landfill Superfund site is a disaster and leaks into the watershed everyday,” says Peter White of Nottingham Water Alliance. “People kept getting cancer but no one was doing anything about it, so we took action.”

The region is facing an onslaught of projects including the controversial Granite Bridge Pipeline and a potential new landfill.

The ordinance recognizes rights of ecosystems and residents to be free from corporate chemical trespass and toxic waste dumping. It imposes a $1000-per-day fine for corporate violations, and allows for non-violent direct action to defend those rights. Corporations would also have to cover the cost of restoring ecosystems to pre-violation conditions.

In the lawsuit, a taxpayer plaintiff and his corporate shield, G&F Goods, LLC, complains the ordinance unconstitutionally discriminates against corporations.

“People are sick and tired of having their lives in someone else’s hands,” says Gail Mills of Nottingham Water Alliance. “The corporations, the state, and the Feds are failing us. That’s why we acted, but now the system is tying our hands—this is unacceptable!”

“There are numerous problems with this corporate lawsuit,” says CELDF New England Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn. “It claims corporate ‘rights’ should trump the community’s basic needs. Residents must be allowed to defend the law they passed and corporate entities must not be allowed to obstruct new ideas from bubbling up from the grassroots.”

Emerging discussions about the specifics of Rights of Nature enforcement have been filed in this case. To read those or any court documents, reach out to simon@celdf.org.

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.

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