Citizens of Baldwin, PA target energy and natural resource companies with local “Bill of Rights”

No 208 Posted by fw, July 2, 2011

The Ordinance also includes a local “bill of rights” that asserts legal protections for the right to water; the rights of natural communities; the right to local self-government; the right to a sustainable energy future, and the right of the people to enforce and protect these rights through their municipal government.” CELDF Press Release

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) Media Release, June 22, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Baldwin, PA) Tuesday, June 21th, the Baldwin Borough Council voted 5-1 to adopt a community rights ordinance that bans the corporate extraction of natural gas. The Ordinance establishes a Bill of Rights for the Baldwin community and imposes the prohibition as a protection of those rights.

The Ordinance was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and taken up as a rallying point by members of the community, who took it to Council.

The Ordinance prohibits “any individual or corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas” with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of the Ordinance.

Ordinance includes Bill of Rights

The Ordinance also includes a local “bill of rights” that asserts legal protections for the right to water; the rights of natural communities; the right to local self-government; the right to a sustainable energy future, and the right of the people to enforce and protect these rights through their municipal government.

Community ordinance movement spreading beyond Pennsylvania to New York, Ohio and West Virginia

The law was modeled after the CELDF Ordinance adopted on November 16th of last year by the City of Pittsburgh. Similar ordinances have been enacted by Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, West Homestead PA, Licking Township PA, Wales NY and have been introduced as bills by communities in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

Councilor says ban on gas extraction “would be more protective of community” if challenged in court

Council members Michael Stelmasczyk, John Conley, and John Ferris brought the Ordinance to the floor for a vote at the urging of concerned community residents. At their April 19th Council meeting the question of zoning or banning the gas extraction process known as “fracking” was discussed.  Borough Solicitor Stanley Lederman noted that any action taken by council would most probably be challenged in the courts and suggested that a ban would be more protective of the community. Council member Stelmasczyk commented that the state “has dropped the ball” on this issue.

Fracking a real and present danger

The gas extraction technique known as “fracking” has been cited as a threat to surface and ground water throughout the region, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local streams, the air and soil. Collateral damage includes lost property value, ingestion of toxins by livestock, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and threatened loss of organic certification for farmers in the affected communities.

Council members proud of their stand

After the vote, community resident Aaron Booz commented, “We are proud that another community in Allegheny County has taken a stand for Constitutional Rights, and we think this can only help in getting other communities on board.

That sentiment was echoed by Mel Packer, an organizer with Marcellus Protest, who said “Sure is wonderful to find some elected officials who can see thru all the propaganda and threats of the energy companies.”

Ordinance’s focus on Civil Rights raises awareness of citizens’ “fundamental rights”

Eric Belcastro, Community Organizer with CELDF spoke to the Council before the vote, emphasizing the Civil Rights focus of the ordinance and explaining that it does not attempt to regulate how much state-permitted fracking damage will be legal in the Borough.  Rather, it puts into practice the fundamental rights that belong to every member of the community, and it makes real the oaths taken by each member of Council who swore to “protect the health, safety and welfare” of the community.

About CELDF

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, headquartered in Chambersburg, P.A. has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.

RELATED STORIES

The above post is another in a series of related posts on this blog about CELDF’s “massive disobedience” campaign to U.S. law. To find other posts, enter the term CELDF in the Search box.

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