Announcing CELDF's Proposed Rights of Nature Principles
A new system of law based on respect for Nature and the…
A new system of law based on respect for Nature and the…
Human and ecosystem viability come when we figure out how to orient…
Protecting Water and Life: Frontline Stories from Ohioans fighting corporate and state…
Ready to Make a Difference? You are tired of writing letters that end up in landfills. You are weary of spending hours on the phone just to talk to your representative’s answering machine. You have voiced your frustration with the system. CELDF listened. We want to share a life-changing book with you. It reframes events… Read more »Read More
CELDF Democracy School Immerse yourself in the fundamentals of our current legal system. Learn how to better understand the issues of our time. Discover the keys to affect lasting change. Learn MoreRead More
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
was founded as a conventional environmental law firm
(phase one). As it discovered how regulatory law is
fixed to disempower people, communities and ecosystems, it pivoted—towards “rights based” law making.
In the midst of historic Black Lives Matter uprisings, critics say: “but what is it really accomplishing?” not
realizing that the protests are shifting the conditions of political action itself. Indeed, when movements are so
structural—as to seek transformations of “public safety” and self-governance—it may be hard to observe their
Since a national emergency was called in the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate interests—and politicians doing their bidding—have engaged in aggressive
action to save the status quo. They want nothing more than to return to “normal.”
CELDF, our partner communities, and allies made remarkable advancements
in Community Rights and Rights of Nature this year. Together—despite corporate and state level efforts to stop this work—we made history.
As the busiest year ever for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
comes to a close, here’s how Alternet recently described our work: “It’s about the community having the right to protect themselves from
legalized harm…it’s about communities passing laws to create a society
you want your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to
It all started, as most of these things do, with a company’s application for a permit.
In May of 2013, Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) applied for a permit from
the Environmental Protection Agency to convert one of its gas extraction wells in
Grant Township, Indiana County, PA, into an injection well.
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 filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in federal district court in Spokane, WA,
on January 31st. The lawsuit contends that the rail transportation of coal and oil
through the City violates the right of the people of Spokane to a livable climate.
Highland Township, PA, voters step up their fight to protect themselves from a frack wastewater injection well, adopting a rights-based Home Rule Charter banning the well, 55% to 45%.Read More
The might of the oil and gas industry and its allies were out in force, outspending residents enormously in today’s election to defeat the people’s Community Bill of Rights banning fracking. While the measure was defeated, the people are not.Read More
Waterville, OH, residents make clear the Nexus pipeline and compressor station will not cut through their community, overwhelmingly adopting a Community Bill of Rights Charter Amendment banning fracking related activities.Read More
What an amazing year! Working with CELDF, the people of Grant and Highland
Township in rural Pennsylvania became the first communities in the nation to
draft and adopt home rule charters that enshrine local bills of rights.
Nearly 13,000 signatures were submitted in five counties to place rights-based
initiatives on the November ballot. The measures ban shale gas drilling, fracking,
pipelines, and frack wastewater injection wells.
At Town Meeting in March, Barnstead, NH, adopted the first-in-the-nation law
protecting residents from political and civil persecution based on their religious
beliefs. The Community Bill of Rights law establishes the right to be free from
religious identification requirements.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund turned
twenty years old this month! Launched by two people in November 1995 in a small, rural township in Pennsylvania,
CELDF has grown into ten staff, a dozen attorneys, and countless volunteers working in ten states.
This year, an unprecedented number of communities and grassroots groups contacted us for help to protect the places where they live. Collectively, they’ve decided that they’re no longer willing to accept the status quo.Read More
On June 3rd, the Grant Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance prohibiting
the disposal of fracking waste material into injection wells.
In 2013, the residents of Lafayette, CO, approved a Community Bill
of Rights to their City’s Charter that banned commercial oil and gas extraction within the City, while removing corporate “rights” and state preemptive authority.
This has been the busiest year ever for the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund (CELDF), as we’ve seen our work expand across the country and internationally.
On May 19, 2013, residents from several regions of New Hampshire gathered at the Barnstead Town Hall to seat the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN). At that meeting, they signed The Barnstead Declaration, calling for state level changes in law that recognize the right to local self-government and the Rights of Nature.Read More
In a landmark decision on March 20, 2013, Judge O’Dell-Seneca cited sections of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution in support of her contention that
corporations were never intended to be constitutionally protected “persons.”
In April, I found myself sitting in an office in Kathmandu, Nepal with the former Prime Minister of Nepal, discussing whether CELDF’s work – of recognizing enforceable rights for nature – should become part of the country’s new Constitution.Read More
Members of Community Rights Activists of Ferguson Township (CRAFT) in
Centre County, Pennsylvania, have been circulating petitions to place a question on the ballot for Township residents to vote on a proposed Community
Bill of Rights in November.
The Pennsylvania Legislature recently adopted Act 13 of 2012 (House Bill 1950) to accelerate the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale deposit underlying much of Pennsylvania.Read More
What a year it’s been.
I’m writing this note at 30,000 feet over southern Oregon on my way
to speak at the annual Bioneers Conference in southern California,
which draws over 3,000 attendees each year.
How do we say “No more!” ask community members and local officials facing the daunting spread of natural gas drilling. “How do we
assert our rights to local self-governance?” As the number of gas wells
in Pennsylvania grows each week, concern is mounting and citizens
want to know how to stop the drilling and protect their community.
Exploding gas wells, flaming faucets, lost land value, floating fish,
radioactive road de-icers, roadside dumping of toxic waste…the evidence that our communities are being turned into resource colonies of
gas drilling corporations is everywhere.
Along with our new nationally syndicated radio show, our role as coconvenor of the new Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, our work in Ireland and Ecuador, and the formation of our Pennsylvania Community Rights Network and its call for a new State Constitution, the Legal Defense Fund continues to blaze the path towards community sustainability through local democracy.Read More
It was in 2007 that Tamaqua Borough Council Member Cathy
Miorelli informed Tom Gerhart, Chair of the Packer Township Board of Supervisors, that 33 truckloads of New Jersey sewage sludge were dumped on a field about 75 yards from the Still Creek reservoir, which lies in Packer Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
According to polling numbers, more than 80% of Americans
think that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5 to 4 ruling in the
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case stinks.
There is widespread sentiment that our state of New
Hampshire gives towns a wide berth for local initiatives that
pass at Town Meeting. The people who have grown up here
believe in the independence of small government.
Happy 15th anniversary to the Legal Defense Fund!
Begun in a spare bedroom in a house in rural Pennsylvania,
the work of the Legal Defense Fund has now spread to half of
the states in the country, with over a hundred municipalities
in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine adopting Legal Defense Fund ordinances.
Earlier this year, the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund began working with a community group in
Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, called We the People of
Cheltenham. The group’s mission is to assert the “right of the
people in our communities to determine the future livability
and sustainability of Cheltenham.”