I found this inspiring report on AlterNet, about City of Pittsburgh Councillors voting to adopt an ordinance that bans corporations from natural gas drilling/fracking in the city area.
Pittsburgh Councillor Doug Shields sponsored the ordinance to ban drilling, and was later joined by five co-sponsors.
A city ordinance that puts the rights of people, the community and nature above corporate privileges
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) drafted Pittsburgh’s ordinance, which elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate “rights” and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making.
“Corporations, empowered with constitutional privileges conferred upon them by the courts, have long worked hand-in-hand with elected officials and government agencies at the state and federal level to pave the way for drilling. They’ve been successful in exempting natural gas drilling and fracking from federal regulations and they’ve put in place state laws pre-empting municipalities from taking any steps to reign in the industry.
Provisions in the ordinance eliminate corporate “personhood” rights within the city, and remove the ability of corporations to override community decision-making.
Communities, like Pittsburgh, are coming to the shared conclusion that it’s up to them to stop practices they disagree with. Their efforts are not just about stopping the drilling, but about who gets to make decisions for the community—corporations empowered by the state, or people and their communities.
As Councilman Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”
Recognising legally binding rights of nature
“In addition, with adoption of the ordinance, Pittsburgh became the first city in the U.S. to recognize legally binding rights of nature. By recognizing the rights of nature, Pittsburgh is effectively protecting ecosystems and natural communities within the city from efforts by corporations to drill there—and by other levels of government to authorize that drilling.”
Drafting nature’s constitution
Yes magazine reports on how the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund has been drafting Nature’s Constitution:
“Simply regulating pollution will never really stop it. Mari Margil of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund discusses why we need a fundamental change in the way we use law to protect nature.
Mari Margil, associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) believes it’s time for different tactics. The nonprofit agency used to work within the body of existing environmental law—helping impacted residents file lawsuits or appeal corporate permits—to protect communities from environmental damage. But a series of blocked efforts, often made worse by the very agencies meant to protect the environment, convinced the group that more fundamental changes were necessary. “Our system of environmental laws and regulations don’t actually protect the environment,” says CLEDF’s Mari Margil. “At best, they merely slow the rate of its destruction … We weren’t helping anyone protect anything.”
The organization has since changed its goals, working with citizens from all over North and South America to literally rewrite local laws in ways that allow people to speak up for their communities, watersheds, forests, and air. According to Margil, anemic environmental laws spring from the fact that nature has no constitutional rights. CLEDF has taken a local approach to reversing this structural blind spot, drafting ordinances for townships from New England to Pennsylvania to Washington State that:
- Give communities legal authority to say “No” to unwanted corporate activities;
- Recognize the rights of nature;
- Strip corporations of their constitutional rights.
In one landmark victory, the town of Barnstead, New Hampshire, voted 135 to 1 to ban the privatization of their freshwater by encroaching corporate interests—the first community in the nation to do so. Other towns have followed, stripping corporations of the rights of personhood and recognizing the rights of communities to self-govern. In 2008, with legal advice from CELDF, Ecuador recognized the right of nature to exist and persist in its national constitution.”