A growing number of communities in New Hampshire are adopteding Rights-based Ordinances (RBOs) protecting community health, safety and welfare, by prohibiting harmful activities that would violate the rights of the community. The work began in Barnstead, with the nearly unanimous adoption of the rights-based community ordinance to protect the “Right to Water” by banning commercial water mining. Some of the activities now covered under RBOs include commercial water extraction, and unsustainable energy systems like industrial wind, and large-scale industrial hydro-electric projects. Communities partner with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to draft rights-based ordinances that establish Community Rights by accessing local law-making to empower the community as a whole, with protection for the health, safety and welfare of every resident and to secure protections for community economic, social and environmental resiliency. There are 221 municipalities and 10 counties in New Hampshire. The roots of the NHCRN come from communities where residents have adopted RBOs establishing Community Bills of Rights across the state. These rooted communities have grown together to form the tree of the NHCRN, with each of the ten branches representing one of the ten county chapters. The County chapters act as hubs for driving constitutional change. They facilitate and harness energy originating within the County’s municipalities, and then amplify that energy to join forces with other County chapters focused on securing and protecting community rights.
Barnstead was the first municipality in the state to enact a rights-based, Community Bill of Rights law. The Barnstead Right to Water and Local Self-Government Ordinance passed almost unanimously at Town Meeting in 2006. This was a first in the nation ordinance that prohibited water extractions by asserting the rights of residents over the decision-making process, and by rejecting corporate privilege. Ten years later, in 2016, Barnstead enacted a first-in-the-nation law that protects residents from political and civil persecution based on their religious beliefs. The Community Bill of Rights law establishes the right to be free from religious identification requirements.
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Cheshire County Swanzey residents, concerned about election integrity, drafted a Free and Fair Elections Ordinance including a Community Bill of Rights that would prohibit corporate involvement in elections, prohibit corporates or governments from engaging in electioneering or the operation of vote-counting computers. Residents are taking the time to educate their community prior to petitioning the Ordinance.
Coos County Lancaster residents drafted a Rights-based Ordinance (RBO) to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and ecosystems, by establishing a Community Bill of Rights recognizing their Right to a Sustainable Energy Future. The Ordinance was placed on the 2012 Town Warrant, but pressure from local elected officials interfered with voter support. Residents continue to support the Community Rights Movement by calling for state constitutional change recognizing the Right to Local Community Self-Government.
Easton was the first municipality to enact the Right to a Sustainable Energy Future, Community Bill of Rights Ordinance, in 2012, to prohibit unsustainable energy infrastructure from being built within the Town.
Sugar Hill unanimously adopted a similar law that evening at their Town Meeting.
Plymouth enacted a similar RBO a few days later. They have already begun creating a Sustainable Energy Policy with a solar-generated 60 MW capacity system that operates the municipal water and sewer system.
Almost all affected communities oppose the Hydro-Quebec’s Northern Pass project, which proposes to use New Hampshire lands for high-tension, transmission lines to carry electrical power to the Southern tier (MA and CT), with no access, or benefit to, New Hampshire people.
Grafton was the fourth to adopt a Community Bill of Rights in 2013 against Unsustainable Energy Systems in response to the many proposed industrial wind projects for the Newfound Lake region.
In 2014 Alexandria and Hebron joined the other four towns in Grafton County to enact a Community Bill of Rights (RBO). Their Ordinances prohibit industrial wind projects from siting in the Town.
All of the Right to a Sustainable Energy Future Ordinances contain a provision for each town to create its own Sustainable Energy Policy.
In response the the proposed Kinder Morgan, Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project across southern New Hampshire, residents from Mason drafted a Sustainable Energy Community Bill of Rights Ordinance for 2016 Town Meeting. The Ordinance was withdrawn from the Warrant due to pressure from misinformed elected officials. Residents continue to support the Community Rights Movement within their region. Although the application for the NED project was withdrawn by Kinder Morgan, residents of Mason continue to work towards sustainable communities based on Community Rights.
Danbury is the first municipality in Merrimack County to enact a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance in 2014. The RBO prohibits unsustainable energy systems from operating in the town.
There were three towns in 2014 that adopted similar Ordinances to prohibit industrial wind projects that were neither accessible, nor provided a benefit to, Town residents. The other two towns are located in Grafton County.
Atkinson adopted a version of the Barnstead Right to Water and Local Self-Government Ordinance to prohibit water takings from the community, in 2007.
Nottingham adopted the Nottingham Right to Water and Local Self-Government Ordinance in 2008 after the Town spent over $400,000 appealing the permits through the regulatory schemes that are part of our legal system. Despite evidence from residents that warned against state-issue of a permit for the USA Spring’s proposal for groundwater extraction from a bedrock aquifer, the 10 – day pump tests lowered wells 4 – 7 feet and residents were cautioned not to drink their water because it might be contaminated.
Barrington, in 2016, adopted a Community Bill of Rights in response to corporate interests intent on gravel mining and water withdrawals from the Isinglass River. The Ordinance prohibits corporations from siting additional gravel mining or water extraction projects that would violate the right to clean air, pure water and the right of self-government, and calling for state constitutional change specifically recognizing the Right of Local Community Self-government.