Alliance for Democracy

Trackling Corporate Power | AfD in the news |SC Justices Ramble at Anti-War Rally

Posted in Alliance for Democracy, CELDF, Liquefied Natural Gas, Move to Amend, Water by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on March 21, 2011

Below my signature is an article on Tackling Corporate Power, One Town at a Time by Mari Margil who works with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.  They are best known for working with Pennsylvanian towns to pass ordinances banning corporate farming.  Now they are working with  communities to ban corporations from drilling for natural gas in their communities using the fracking process. First the City of Pittsburg passed such an ordinance and now smaller communities in Maryland and New York are taking steps in the same direction – challenging corporate power in their communities and establishing the rights of local communities to establish health and safety standards for their people even in the face of state or federal regulations or laws designed to remove their power.  Note that one of the objectives of MOVE TO AMEND in eliminating corporate personhood is to allow local communities exactly this power. 
The fracking issue grows each day and ultimately the issue is one of corporate power vs people power.  The specific problem is the use of a process of injecting water and chemicals into the earth to break up shale rock in order to release the natural gas contained therein.  That process uses hugh amounts of water and chemicals which have shown up in people’s drinking water.  In a new documentary, “GasLand, Can You Light Your Water On Fire”, we have footage of water running from the tap which is lite on fire. 

The Community for Earth at the First Unitarian Church will be screening GasLand next month on April 22 at 7PM.  The church is at SW 12th and Salmon.  Please plan on being there.  We hope to have Dan Serres with Columbia RiverKeepers’ No LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) campaign there to talk afterwards on the changing situation for natural gas caused by the situation in Japan. He is not confirmed yet.  Printable flier available here.

Supreme Court JusticesIf you went to the anti-war rally on Saturday, you saw Alliance for Democracy members dressed as US Supreme Court justices. We were drawing the connection between the war economy and the continuing practice of corporate involvement in our elections and that the Supreme Court has given our human rights to corporations.  Our efforts were quite sucessful with lots of people taking pictures and otherwise engaging us, thanking us for being there.  Both KBOO and the Oregonian interviewed us, resulting at least in a quotation by David Delk appearing  in the  Oregonian on Sunday.  Read the article.  See the Oregonian photo. Read the flier we handed out explaining why we were there. Additional photos 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18.

| David Delk, President  | Alliance for Democracy – Portland, 503.232.5495 | |

Tackling Corporate Power, One Town at a Time

Thursday 17 March 2011

by: Mari Margil  |  YES! Magazine | News Analysis

What’s a town to do when state regulatory agencies don’t keep corporate drilling out?

As more information about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” (a technique used during natural gas drilling) emerges, more and more cities and municipalities are organizing to keep drilling and fracking out of their own communities, but are surprised to find that they do not have the legal authority to say “no” to these corporate activities.

Last week, Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, with fewer than 2,500 residents, became the latest community to do something about this, adopting the state’s first ordinance banning corporations from natural gas drilling.

Drafted with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the ordinance comes on the heels of the City of Pittsburgh’s ordinance banning drilling by corporations, adopted in November. Both ordinances also eliminate the authority of corporations to wield their constitutional rights to override the municipality’s wishes. Such constitutional rights and powers are often used by corporations to overturn local and state laws adopted to protect the environment and public health.

Also See: Fracking Debate Heats Up as New Jersey Seeks Ban

More and more communities are organizing to fight drilling and fracking, but are surprised to find that they do not have the legal authority to say “no” to these corporate activities.

A similar ordinance was recently introduced in Wales, New York; it comes up for a vote in April. If adopted, it would make Wales the first community in New York to restrict corporate rights and ban corporations from drilling.

Natural gas drilling and fracking—a technique now used in over ninety percent of gas wells—is spreading across the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit, which stretches from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and into Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Fracking involves injecting fresh water with sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release the gas. The result of fracking is millions of gallons of toxic wastewater, which finds its way into rivers and streams. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking the industry to voluntarily release the list of chemicals used; meanwhile use of the practice is increasing.

Meanwhile, communities are finding that their state governments are legally authorizing corporations to conduct these activities. Thus instead of helping communities to stop the drilling and its potentially toxic impacts, state governments—including environmental regulatory agencies—are actually issuing permits to corporations to drill.

Corporate Control? Not In These Communities
Can local laws really have an effect on big corporations?
Towns facing other kinds of corporate projects—such as mining, factory farms, and corporate water withdrawals—have had similar experiences, finding that the regulatory agencies they expected to protect them were in fact permitting the activities the communities wanted to prevent.

For example, residents in the Town of Nottingham, New Hampshire, faced with a proposal from the USA Springs corporation to siphon off over 300,000 gallons of water a day from the local aquifer, sought help from the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) to stop the project and protect their water.

Commercial water withdrawals impact both surface and groundwater resources. They deplete drinking water and can contaminate aquifers and wells. In addition, withdrawals dry up streams, wetlands, and lakes, as well as damaging habitat, and harming wildlife.

But Nottingham found that the DES, rather than helping communities protect their water, was instead issuing permits to corporations to take it.

Communities in Pennsylvania, facing corporate factory farms, have had a similar experience. They found that, rather than helping them stop factory farms, the state Department of Environmental Protection was issuing permits to corporations to set up industrial operations housing tens of thousands of hogs. The impacts from these industrial farms—including environmental pollution, public health problems, the loss of small and family farms—did not seem to have bearing on the state’s decisions.

Communities such as Mountain Lake Park are beginning to look inward, adopting local laws which assert the community’s right to self govern and thus ban corporations from drilling.
State agencies are following regulations established under state laws which legally authorize such activities. Communities are thus coming up against their own state governments when they’re trying to protect the local environment and public health. Natural gas drilling is proving no different.

That’s why Mountain Lake Park—along with many other municipalities facing water extraction, natural gas drilling, or other threats to community and environmental health—is no longer looking to the state for help. Instead they are beginning to look inward, adopting local laws which assert the community’s right to self govern and thus ban corporations from drilling.

As Mountain Lake Park Mayor Leo Martin explained after the recent vote, “Our town government is responsible for the health, safety, and rights our citizens. When the county, state, and federal governments fail in their duties it is our duty to take action.”

Mari Margil wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Mari is the associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit, public interest law firm providing legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, agriculture, economy, and quality of life. For more information, go to

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