“This local law embodies the will of our residents to protect our natural resources from destruction, so our children and grandchildren can have the quality of life we enjoy.” – Councilmember Mike Simon
(Tuesday, June 14, 2011) Tuesday, June 14th, the Town of Wales, NY, adopted a community rights ordinance titled “Town of Wales Community Protection of Natural Resources.” The ordinance ( No.3-2011) was enacted as a local law under NYS Municipal Home Rule Act, which recognizes broad police powers under the statute. The ordinance establishes a bill of rights for Wales residents and “recognizes and secures certain civil and political rights of the residents of the Town of Wales to govern themselves and protect themselves from harm to their persons, property and environment.”
The ordinance was drafted in consultation with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and advocated by the community group Protecting Our Water Rights (POWR).
Two key prohibitions are enacted to protect the rights enumerated. The ordinance bans “any individual or corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas or oil utilizing in whole or in part the process commonly known as and herein defined as hydraulic fracturing” and also prohibits “any individual or corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas or oil utilizing in whole or in part the process commonly known as horizontal gas well drilling,” with the exception, in each case, of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of the ordinance.
The ordinance also recognizes the right of the people to a form of government where they live “which recognizes that all power is inherent in the people, that all free governments are founded on the people’s authority and consent, and that neither individuals nor corporate entities and their directors and managers shall enjoy special privileges or powers under the color of state law which purports to make community majorities subordinate to them.”
“I think the county is trying to pass this off to the state” commented Rickey Vendetti, Wales town supervisor
“This is a truly unique example of government working like it should. The people of Wales went to their town board members and the board responded to their concerns,” stated Sarah Buckley, founder of POWR.
Ben Price, Projects Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, applauded the Council for taking a stand on behalf of community rights.
“State law preempts municipalities from regulating the industry to protect the community. But residents have the right to decide whether they get fracked. We don’t have a gas drilling problem. We have a democracy problem. Its symptoms are the state’s refusal to recognize the right to local, community self-government, and the issuance of permits to drilling corporations that empower them to violate the rights of the human and natural communities.”
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, headquartered in Chambersburg, 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.