The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, March 21, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: Two more towns have passed local laws declaring that nature has rights and corporations don't.]

Two towns in New Hampshire this month passed local laws recognizing the rights of nature and specifically restricting the rights of corporations.

Nottingham, N.H. passed The Nottingham Water Rights and Local Self - Government Ordinance at a town meeting March 15th. The ordinance establishes strict liability for culpable corporations and government entities that permit and facilitate the privatization and corporatization of water within the town.

The ordinance also strips corporations of constitutional protections within the town. The Town of Nottingham thus becomes the 11th 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 vote in Nottingham was 175 to 111 for the ordinance.

When a few people at the end of the meeting, attempted to use an obscure local law to recall the vote in seven days, after over 75% of the voters had left, the action was defeated by over 60% of the people remaining. These two significant votes proclaim Democracy is alive and well in Nottingham.

At Town Meeting on the same day in Barnstead, voters amended their Water Rights Ordinance; which was passed almost unanimously at their Town Meeting two years ago; to include the Rights of Nature.

Barnstead, NH , became the 12th municipality in the nation to recognize the Rights of Nature. Barnstead voted overwhelmingly on Saturday, March 15th, to add the Rights of Nature to their ordinance which has been in place since March 2006, when they became the first municipality to deny corporate assumed privileges to corporate entities withdrawing water for resale, within the town.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) of Chamberburg, Pennsylvania has been spearheading efforts by local communities to assert control over corporations.

Ben Price, Projects Director for the Legal Defense Fund, had this to say, "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 peoples of the Towns of Nottingham and Barnstead 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," he said.

CELDF's New Hampshire organizer, Gail Darrell, spoke to the success of the amendments on Monday.

"The People of Barnstead have agreed to acknowledge that the natural world needs an advocate -- that advocate is us. The water which we all share is now protected by all of us who live here. We have decided that protecting the essence of all life is a good way to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the community."