Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Sun, 2012-11-04 10:16Steve Horn
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Exclusive: Tea Party, Fracking Industry Launch Astroturf Campaign Against Mansfield, OH Community Bill of Rights Referendum

Ohio is referred to as a “battleground state” due to its status as a “swing state” in presidential elections. But another important battle is brewing in the Buckeye State, also set to be settled in the voting booth.

This battle centers around a “Community Bill of Rights” referendum in Mansfield, OH and will be voted on in a simple “yes/no” manner. Mansfield is a city with roughly 48,000 citizens located 80 miles southwest of Cleveland and 66 miles northeast of Columbus, right in the heart of the Utica Shale basin

Eric Belcastro, the Pennsylvania Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), explained the rationale behind the “Bill of Rights” push in a blog post:

Faced with the permitting of two 5,000 foot deep injection wells in Mansfield by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)…[t]he amendment would drive a community Bill of Rights into Mansfield's charter and then prohibit the injection of fracking wastewater on grounds that such prohibition is necessary to secure and protect those community rights. The amendment also recognizes corporate “rights” as subordinate to the rights of the people of Mansfield, as well as recognizing the rights of residents, natural communities, and ecosystems to clean air and water.

The ODNR, in a study published in March 2012, linked the 12 earthquakes that have occured in Youngstown, Ohio to injection wells located in the city. 

Though the “Bill of Rights” has the full support of the City Council and the Law Director, as well as the city's newspaper, the Mansfield News Journal, one faction in particular isn't such a big fan of the Bill of Rights: the oil and gas industry. In response to the upcoming referrendum vote, the industry has launched an 11th hour astroturf campaign to “win hearts and minds” of those voters still on the fence as it pertains to the “Bill of Rights” in the week before the election. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained images of flyers distributed via a well-coordinated direct mail campaign conducted by the oil and gas industry in Mansfield, made public here for the first time in an exclusive investigation.

Fri, 2012-07-27 03:30Steve Horn
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Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

Tue, 2010-11-16 14:17Brendan DeMelle
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Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people’s health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry’s claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn’t worth the risk.

“They’re bringing jobs all right,” Harris told CBS News. “There’s going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are. Is it worth it?”

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of “personhood” by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “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.”

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