The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, February 11, 2008
VIRGINIA TOWN BANS CHEMICAL AND RADIOACTIVE BODILY TRESPASS
[Rachel's introduction: A municipality takes precautionary action against chemical exposures without informed consent ("chemical trespass"): Halifax, Va. joins the growing list of communities recognizing the rights of nature.]
On February 7, 2008, the Town Council of Halifax, Virginia, voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning corporate chemical and radioactive bodily trespass. Enacted to confront concerns about the proposed uranium mine in adjacent Pittsylvania County, the ordinance establishes strict liability and burden-of-proof standards for culpable corporations and government entities that permit and facilitate corporate bodily trespass.
The ordinance also strips corporations of constitutional protections within the town. The Town of Halifax thus becomes the 10th municipality in the nation to refuse to recognize corporate constitutional "rights," and to prohibit corporate rights from being used to override the rights of human and natural communities.
The ordinance adopted by the Halifax Town Council also recognizes the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish within the town and provides for the enforcement and defense of those rights, and prohibits corporations from interfering with the civil rights of residents, including residents' right to self-government. The ordinance was drafted for the Halifax Town Council by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit law firm.
Ben Price, Projects Director for the Legal Defense Fund commented that "The people of the Town of Halifax have determined that they do not consent to be irradiated, nor to be trespassed upon, by toxic substances that would be released by Virginia Uranium, Inc., or any other state-chartered corporation. The people have asserted their right and their duty to protect their families, environment, and future generations. In enacting this law, the community has gone on record as rejecting the legal theory behind Dillon's Rule, which erroneously asserts that there is no inherent right to local self- government. The American Revolution was about nothing less than the fundamental right of the people to be the decision-makers on issues directly affecting the communities in which they live. They understood that a central government, at some distance removed from those affected, acts beyond its authority in empowering a few powerful men - privileged with chartered immunities and rights superior to the people in the community -- to deny citizens' rights, impose harm, and refuse local self-determination. The people of the Town of Halifax have acted in the best tradition of liberty and freedom, and confronted injustice in the form of a state-permitted corporate assault against the consent of the sovereign people."
Shireen Parsons, the Legal Defense Fund's Virginia Organizer, commended the action of the Halifax Town Council, stating that, "The council members demonstrated courage and solidarity in their commitment to justice and their duty to govern in the interest of protecting and preserving the health, safety and wellbeing of the people from whom they derive their power. This is the beginning of something wonderful in Virginia."
Halifax Town Council member Jack Dunavant said of the decision, "This is an historic vote. We, the people, intend to protect our health and environment from corporate assault. It's time to invoke the Constitution and acknowledge the power of the people to protect our own destiny and end this era of corporate greed and pollution."
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has worked with communities resisting corporate assaults upon democratic self-governance since 1995. Among other programs, it has brought its unique Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools to communities in 26 states in which people seek to end destructive and rights-denying corporate acts routinely permitted by state and federal agencies. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 100 municipalities have enacted ordinances authored by the Legal Defense Fund.