Oct 20, 2017 Updated Oct 20, 2017On Wednesday, New Hampshire Public Radio reported that the state is poised to spend millions of dollars to improve drinking water quality in communities across the state (www.tinyurl.com/nhh2o).
The projects will target MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) contamination, in part by connecting residents who have polluted private wells to municipal water supplies.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers both MTBE and PFOA to be possible carcinogens, but there is uncertainty about the levels of exposure that produce elevated risk of illness in humans.
According to Robert Scott, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Atkinson, Derry, Hampstead, Litchfield, Plaistow, Salem and Wyndham are among the towns most affected by the groundwater contamination, although there are others. Certainly, residents in these communities deserve help.
Although the money for these projects will come from a settlement with ExxonMobil over MTBE groundwater contamination that began in the late 1970s, the multimillion-dollar initiative highlights a fundamental vulnerability in our approach to environmental problems.
Too often, we react to environmental degradation after it has already occurred rather than preventing it from happening in the first place.
Why is this the case? In part, the current system is designed to facilitate profit-making by powerful corporate actors who have little interest in protecting the rights of nature or the rights of citizens.
State regulations and the permitting process may attempt to limit environmental harms, but they inevitably concede that some environmental harm will occur by setting allowable limits for chemical contaminants, cleared or paved land, particulates released into the air, wetlands impacts, or water pumped from community groundwater supplies.
When businesses exceed these limits or when health, environmental, or infrastructure problems develop, the typical approach is to launch expensive, multiyear remediation efforts well after the damage has already been inflicted.
More broadly, this is not just about a vulnerability in our approach to environmental protection. The degradation of nature highlights a more fundamental vulnerability in our democratic system. Residents in Atkinson, Litchfield, Plaistow and elsewhere are dealng with health and environmental threats generated by the routine operation of business and the routine operation of the state. But the citizens of these communities could not prevent the activities that produced these unwanted outcomes. State preemption subordinates community priorities to the goals of state agencies and elected officials.
A growing number of New Hampshire communities are addressing this vulnerability, along with towns and cities across the nation, by passing local Rights-Based Ordinances. RBOs give voice to local concerns by defending the rights of nature before harm can be inflicted and by delineating the scope of corporate activity within municipal boundaries.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) supports these efforts and has worked to return power to people and their local governments. The NHCRN is also working with Rep. Ellen Read (Rockingham, District 17), who has sponsored a state constitutional amendment to protect New Hampshire communities’ authority to defend the welfare of their citizens and the rights of nature.
Interested citizens can obtain more information about the work of the NHCRN and the state constitutional amendment by going online to nhcommunityrights.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cliff Brown is a member of the The New Hampshire Community Rights Network from Portsmouth.
Grassroots non-profit supports state constitutional
amendment to guarantee Community Rights
Concord – Representative Ellen Read of Rockingham District 17, has introduced a State Constitutional amendment that would guarantee local communities the authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of individuals, communities and nature.
The Community Rights amendment was drafted by New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with assistance from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Representative Read said she is proud to sponsor the amendment to “ensure protections for the people and ecosystems of the Granite State that currently do not have governing authority over decisions that directly affect them.”
The legislation grew out of the frustration of many New Hampshire residents who have been thwarted in their efforts to protect their local identity, ecosystems, unalienable rights and individual property rights. Towns are preempted by state and federal governments, in partnership with corporate special interests, without Towns’ consent and with no regard for their welfare. Proposals including gas pipelines and compressor stations, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind ventures, water extraction projects and other harms, have threatened New Hampshire people and ecosystems. These projects are approved by many state elected officials and state agencies.
A growing number of communities have acted to protect themselves by passing Rights-Based Ordinances (RBOs) at their town meetings. RBOs, developed by people in those communities with CELDF’s assistance, are grounded in the unalienable right affirmed in the Declaration of Independence and the New Hampshire State Constitution: our individual and collective right to self-govern.
Representative Read said that when NHCRN brought the amendment proposal to her attention, she immediately saw the need to step up and set an example for other elected officials to follow. She stated,
“I truly hope my colleagues join me in supporting the Community Rights Amendment because it means doing exactly what we came to Concord to do – protect the people and resources of NH. This Amendment is needed to reestablish the inherent and inalienable rights of individuals, their communities, and nature. Too often, big out-of-state corporations, that come in looking to profit off of Granite Staters and our land, are given MORE rights than our own people and ecosystems! This amendment places power back into the hands of the governed...the very thing our Revolutionary ancestors fought for.”
Michelle Sanborn, volunteer coordinator for the NHCRN and community organizer for CELDF, stated, “This amendment would empower communities to enact local laws that protect health, safety and welfare for residents and their natural environments by recognizing, securing and protecting rights greater than those afforded by existing laws. That means authority to prohibit harmful corporate activities that seek to threaten local community rights.”
NHCRN was founded in 2013, with supporters from across New Hampshire. This includes Alexandria, Barnstead, Barrington, Danbury, Easton, Grafton, Hebron, Jaffrey, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sugar Hill, Swanzey, Thornton, Newmarket, Merrimack and Durham. Other states are also involved in the community rights movement including Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maine. NHCRN advocates for change that begins at the grassroots level. For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact email@example.com.
About NHCRN – New Hampshire Community Rights Network
NHCRN is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities and elected officials with education and authority about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice, including the rights of nature.
When former Superbowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem over a year ago, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what would happen next. Whether that would have been one of the singers of the anthem taking a knee a couple of weeks ago, a Houston high schooler sitting during the pledge of allegiance, or high school football players imitating professional ones, Kaepernick’s stance just keeps on giving.
Of course, the four African-American students deciding to sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, had no idea whether the time was ripe, or whether it wasn’t. They did it for the same reasons that Kaepernick did – because they had given up hope that anyone else would. READ MORE
To The Daily Sun,
They say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but what about freedom? What was freedom to those that colonized the New World in comparison to the freedom experienced by those that were stewards of the land before white man arrived? The freedoms we experience today are not the same freedoms our parents or grandparents might have fought for. We’ve seen the interpretation of freedom change over generations, but we are experiencing an unprecedented threat to our basic natural freedoms with the current administration. Freedoms fought for by women, labor, LGBTQ and civil rights movements may become a thing of the past for the next four years — or more. These hard-fought freedoms have been chipped away at by corporate elitists and governments that serve them prior to Trump becoming president, but his presidency is proving to be the most racist, elitist, homophobic, misogynistic, corporate-stacked administration this nation has ever seen.
Freedom may have different applications to different people, but freedom is basically the state of being free, civil liberty; the right to enjoy all privileges or rights of citizenship. Essentially, the power to exercise choice and make decisions; autonomy; self-determination. If you haven’t noticed, we ain’t free.
Sure, we’re are free to roam around within the “cage of freedom” defined by special interests, secured by governments and enforced by the courts. Restricted to the “free speech zone” when words of truth, inspiration and justice are spoken, but manipulating social propaganda is all over the nightly news. Carry signs of protest downtown, but don’t take any real action that generates rights-protecting systemic change. Go ahead and write countless pleading letters to elected officials and appointed positions that have been bought and paid for by the very industries that are the subject of our pleading letters; you’ll get a formulated response if you get any response at all.
What about whether our food is genetically engineered or not, watered with frack waste, or fertilized with pharmaceutical-laden human waste? What about knowing if the meat available in the store is from some country with absolutely no safety regulations or whether there is mercury in the seafood? This is the kind of information that seriously affects our choices because it motivates our decision to spend or not to spend. These limitations on our freedom to know and therefore our freedom to choose, are limited because they affect the bottom line profits of industry. Freedom isn’t really freedom when it is confined to a set of limitations defined by those profiting from the limitations defining our choices.
Food isn’t the only area our freedom to decide is limited. When an industry is seeking to use a natural resource in our community, who decides whether or not that industry is a good idea for the area? These decisions are made by state and federal governmental agencies with appointed committee members considered experts in the fields of the industry they represent. The real experts that truly know how a project is going to affect the area are those most affected by the project — real human beings that live in those communities and the ecosystems that will be the subject of the development.
We have political party limitations as well. You “get to choose” between a Democrat or a Republican — if you want to have any part in the political process. If you are an Independent or support the Green Party, well, that’s nice, but they don’t get the media coverage or the big funders backing their cause so in essence, they don’t get to participate and therefore, neither do you. Where is the freedom to simply run for an office as an elected official based on what you actually believe and what you really plan to do for those you represent? Where is the freedom for voters to have a legitimate process to choose and elect who represents them?
We should all be alarmed about how future administrations will define our future “freedoms.” Trump is a corporate elitist who is now in a powerful position to serve the corporate elite in ways no other president has been positioned to do. Now, more than ever, we need to stop spinning our wheels in a system designed by corporate elites to deny We the People our freedom to decide what happens where we live. We need a people’s movement that will mobilize across party lines, across social divides, across regional separations that will stop giving consent to illegitimate and unjust laws that serve the corporate-state.
How often have we heard the question about whether the Democrats in Washington will work with the Republicans, or the other way around, or whether they will fight each other every step of the way? It is time we fight freedom-robbing policies every step of the way at the local level. Stop giving consent to this elitist-serving system that stands in the way of our freedom to create local sustainable energy, transportation solutions, sustainable agricultural systems, social acceptance, free and fair elections, livable wages, protections for ecosystems and local self-governance. Stop accepting restrictions of freedom as for the “greater good.” The greater good of whom? The local community, or the corporate industries that will profit from using the community as a human experiment or a resource colony? We must challenge illegitimate and unjust laws by returning to the very freedoms the revolutionaries fought for — our freedom to exercise local self-governance.
Hundreds of communities across the nation have begun to dismantle illegitimate and unjust laws by partnering with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to draft new local laws that include a Community Bills of Rights recognizing the right to local community self-government and elevating the rights of people, communities and nature above the “rights” currently claimed by corporations. These communities aren’t waiting for permission to exercise their inherent and unalienable right to self-govern, they are exercising their freedom to create local laws that protect the health, safety and welfare of both human and natural communities because our very survival depends upon it. Freedom to make choices about social acceptance, economic, political, or environmental sustainability is already ours. We just need to believe it and act on it. Now is the time.
NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) partners with CELDF to build CELDF’s organizing framework to the state level with a constitutional amendment to recognize, secure and protect community rights. Learn more at www.nhcommunityrights.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NHCRN Board of Directors