Local elected officials refused to defend residents’ Right to a Healthy Climate ordinance against a corporate ‘rights’ lawsuit. Residents demanded they be allowed to defend their law in court, to no avail. Now, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has allowed them to argue that they should be able to defend the historic law.


Michelle Sanborn
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
New England Community Organizer

NOTTINGHAM, NH: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has accepted community group Nottingham Water Alliance’s (NWA) appeal, giving residents a chance to defend a voter-initiated ordinance adopted at a 2019 Town Meeting. The trial court is not allowed to invalidate the ordinance until the Supreme Court rules on residents’ right to defend the law in court.

The Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance secures the right of townspeople to a climate system capable of sustaining human societies and bans all corporate activities that infringe that right. The Town of Nottingham refused to defend the ordinance from a corporate lawsuit, and the trial court denied the residents’ motion to intervene in the proceeding, leaving the ordinance undefended.

All the while, the ecological and human rights crisis worsens.

“This appeal is ultimately about democracy, and whether members of the general public are allowed to make the choices that decide their health, safety, and welfare. At the moment, a lower court judge is letting a private corporation and a municipal corporation litigate ‘against’ each other to advocate in total agreement for a court ruling that excludes the people of a town and secures profits and commerce,” said NWA’s attorney Kira Kelley.

The ordinance recognizes rights of ecosystems and residents to be free from corporate chemical trespass and toxic waste dumping.

“We’re glad that at least the NH Supreme Court recognizes the logic of ordering the trial court judge to postpone his decision on whether to overturn our legally petitioned ‘rights-based’ law until after our appeal is decided. We simply seek to be recognized as ‘intervenors’ to defend our health and safety law. We have spent over a year in the courts simply to access due process, which appears to be something the courts hand out more freely to corporate entities than to real human beings,” said Peter White of NWA.

“Nottingham has the opportunity to make history. Though it is encouraging the NH Supreme Court has kept the trial court in check, we know the judicial system is designed to protect the status quo,” said CELDF New England Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn. “It has taken all this time just to deny NWA’s status as intervenors—twice. During that time, the elected officials of Nottingham have sided with the corporate interest. So much for local democracy, elected representation, and decision-making justice for residents and the ecosystems of Nottingham.”

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

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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