West Homestead Borough Council Unanimously Adopts Community Bill of Rights Ordinance That Bans Gas Drilling

“Our Council feels that we are protecting our community’s right to clean air and water as guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution. We are protecting the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and our right to self govern. We are very comfortable with our decision.”
—Council President Dave Weir
MEDIA RELEASE
May 10, 2011
CONTACT: Ben Price, (717) 254-3233
benprice@celdf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Tuesday, May 10, 2011)  The Borough Council of West Homestead, Pennsylvania,  unanimously adopted an ordinance that enacts a Local Bill of Rights, along with a prohibition on natural gas extraction to protect those rights.  The bill, titled “West Homestead Borough’s Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance;  establishes specific rights of West Homestead residents, including the Right to Water, the Rights of Natural Communities, the Right to a Sustainable Energy Future, and the Right to Community Self-Government.

The Ordinance was drafted in consultation with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The key prohibition enacted to protect the rights enumerated states: “It shall be unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas within West Homestead Borough, with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of this Ordinance, provided that the extraction of gas from those existing wells does not involve any practice or process not previously used for the extraction of gas from those wells.”

The bill 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.”

The bill was modeled after the Ordinance adopted on November 16th of last year by the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. A similar ordinance was enacted by Licking Township in Clarion County, Pennsylvania and in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland on March 6th of this year.

West Homestead Councilman Joe Baran said “We just don’t know what the effects of this drilling will have over time to our kids.”
Energy corporations have targeted communities in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, with plans to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale and other formations.  Corporate “land men” have been signing-up property owners to contracts at a steady clip for the past several years, and those leases, along with state laws that severely restrict the power of local governments to stop the drilling, means that wells are likely to be sited throughout the region, unless communities take a stand to protect their rights.

Mayor John Dindak of West Homestead said “This is the right thing to do.  I hope Governor Corbett gives more thought to what is being done.”

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 the State does not have the authority to issue permits to state-chartered corporations to empower them to ‘legally’ violate the rights of the people. We don’t have a gas drilling problem. We have a democracy problem.”

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.

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling

Adopts first-in-the-nation ordinance –
elevates the right of the community to decide, not corporations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2010

CONTACT: Ben Price, (717) 254-3233
benprice@celdf.org

PITTSBURGH:  Today, the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance banning corporations from conducting natural gas drilling in the city.
The ordinance was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) at the invitation of Councilman Bill Peduto, and was introduced by Councilman Doug Shields.

Pittsburgh’s first-in-the-nation ordinance confronts the threat of Marcellus Shale drilling – an activity permitted by the state which allows corporations to site drilling activities over the wishes of a community.

Energy corporations are setting up shop in communities across Pennsylvania, to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.  The gas extraction technique known as “fracking” has been cited as a threat to surface and groundwater, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local rivers, and streams.  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 affected communities.

Councilman Shields stated, “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.”

Shields added, “With this vote we are asserting the right of the city to make critical decisions to protect our health, safety, and welfare.  We are not a colony of the state and will not sit quietly by as our city gets drilled.  We encourage communities across the region to take this step and join with us to elevate the rights of communities and people over corporations.”

CELDF’s Ben Price, who is engaging with communities across the state seeking to protect themselves from drilling, said, “Communities are coming to recognize that our state laws and government are not in place to protect their interests, but rather the interests of private corporations.”

Price applauded the city for taking a stand on behalf of community rights. “Some will say that the municipality doesn’t have the authority to ban this noxious practice associated with gas drilling.  The only way that’s true is if the state has the authority to strip the residents of their rights, and it doesn’t.”

Under the ordinance, corporations that violate the ordinance or that seek to drill in the city will not be afforded “personhood” rights under the U.S. or Pennsylvania Constitution, nor will they be afforded protections under the Commerce Clause or Contracts Clause under the federal or state constitution.

In addition, the ordinance recognizes the legally enforceable Rights of Nature to exist and flourish.  Residents of the city shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of natural communities and ecosystems.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 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.

Source: http://www.celdf.org/press-release–pittsburgh-bans-natural-gas-drilling