Posted at 11:18 AMUpdated at 11:18 AM
To the Editor:
There are a dozen towns in New Hampshire that have passed local rights-based ordinances to protect the health and safety of people and our natural resources from corporate exploitation. Nottingham and Exeter joined the growing coalition of communities asserting their right to self-govern at town meetings this year! If we don’t act then we are ripe for getting used and abused by energy monopolies and corporate polluters!
There are 850 hazardous waste sites in New Hampshire and 22 of them are on the national Superfund list. Neither the state nor federal governments have protected its citizens and Mother Nature from contamination, nor from the toxic greenhouse gasses destroying the earth, nor from the gas pipelines and fracking bringing in more fossil fuels to be burned by misguided consumers.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) proposed a State Constitutional amendment in the Legislature the last two years to enable more towns to pass rights-based ordinances but the Republican-led House in 2018 and the Democrat-led House in 2019 each denied our communities the right to protect themselves. Who are they representing, We the People or the rich special interests who profit from polluting activities?
The NHCRN (email@example.com) is a grassroots non-profit that assists citizens and local officials to get informed and organized to promote rights-based ordinances in their towns. Get involved or be passive victims of greedy corporate polluters who are poisoning our children and planet!
Peter A. White, Nottingham Water Alliance
Posted Mar 25, 2019 at 2:20 PMUpdated Mar 25, 2019 at 2:20 PM
To the Editor:
Last week, CACR8, the NH Community Rights Amendment, was blocked by the New Hampshire House of Representatives from advancing to a people’s vote. New Hampshire citizens were denied advancement of the recognized right to protect human and environmental health and safety from corporate harm.
The NH Community Rights Amendment is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would guarantee the citizens of New Hampshire the right of local self-government to protect human and natural communities though local lawmaking so long as those local laws expand and protect the rights of people, communities, and their natural environments. The amendment would safeguard against infringement on existing fundamental rights and protections under other local, state, federal, or international laws.
During last week’s House Session, Representative Ellen Read (D), prime sponsor of CACR8, said that local community self-government is the basis of our country. She asked, “Shouldn’t a town be able to decide to stop a corporate activity if it hurts their town?” Read also said that towns need constitutional protection in order to fight the deep pockets of corporate encroachment.
As corporate threats grow in the Granite State, more communities are joining the Community Rights movement. These communities and their supporters will reintroduce the NH Community Rights Amendment again in the future because our quality of life — indeed our very lives and those of our children and future generations — depends on it.
All politics are local. No one cares more about what happens in their community than the people that live there. We know from prior people’s movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure, and that we must insist that our elected officials protect New Hampshire people, places, and environments above profit.
Thank you to all who support the efforts of the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) to secure the right of local community self-government for all inhabitants of New Hampshire. If you believe that the people most affected by governing decisions should be the ones making them and that local concerns are not being adequately addressed at the state level, please join us in advancing and protecting our right to decide what happens in the places we live!
For additional information, visit the NHCRN at www.nhcommunityrights.org. Contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Dube, NHCRN Legislative Coordinator
March 14, 2019 By Dana DrugmandThe town of Exeter, N.H. passed an ordinance recognizing the right to a healthy climate, the second ordinance of its kind to be passed in the U.S,.
The law, dubbed the Right to Healthy Climate Ordinance, recognizes the “right to a healthy climate system capable of sustaining human societies.” Exeter residents voted 1176 to 1007 to pass the ordinance at the annual town meeting on Tuesday.
It follows a similar law passed by the town of Lafayette, Colo., which enacted a “Climate Bill of Rights” ordinance in 2017. These local right-to-climate laws are part of a growing movement by communities across the country to ban corporate activities that threaten residents’ health, safety and welfare. With assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), more than 200 communities have passed community rights ordinances securing rights to water, a healthy environment, sustainable energy and other issues. They prohibit an array of industrial activities from factory farms and dumping of sewage sludge to fracking and building fossil fuel pipelines.
Exeter, home to about 15,000 residents, is one of eight towns in New Hampshire fighting a proposed pipeline project that would transport fracked gas across the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water. The 27-mile Granite Bridge pipeline, a project of Liberty Utility, is not specifically mentioned in Exeter’s ordinance, which instead asserts the broader right to “be free from all corporate activities that release toxic contaminants into the air, water, and soil,” including from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.
“Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights,” said Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment.
Exeter joins nearly a dozen other communities across New Hampshire that have enacted rights-based ordinances, according to Michelle Sanborn, New Hampshire community organizer with CELDF. The town of Nottingham is set to vote Saturday on a community rights ordinance that includes a provision establishing the right to a healthy climate.
The effort to establish this right at the local level represents a new avenue for challenging the fossil fuel industry and the government agencies that approve its infrastructure projects. A handful of cities and counties are suing the fossil fuel industry demanding it pay for costly climate adaptation measures. And a youth climate lawsuit against the federal government is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken acknowledged the plausibility of a constitutional climate right, writing in her motion that ordered Juliana v. United States to trial in November 2016, “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
"Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right."
by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
This shot from the New England town shows where the Exeter River ends and the Squamscott River begins. (Photo: Josh Graciano/flickr/cc)
Voters in Exeter, New Hampshire, fearing the impact on their community from a planned pipeline project, declared Tuesday that their town's right to a safe and healthy climate trumps corporate profits.
"Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right," said Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter's Environment (CAEE), in a statement. "Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights."
Voters passed Article 30, the Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance, by a vote of 1,176 to 1,007
The ordinance states, in part:
It is our legislative determination that certain corporate activities are detrimental to our rights, health, safety, and welfare. These activities include but are not limited to: the runoff from commercial use of fertilizers, the intentional or unintentional dumping of toxic waste, and the physical deposition, emission, leakage, disposal, or placement of toxins into the land, air or waterways from extraction, transportation, processing, storage, conveyance, and depositing of waste from fossil fuel exploration and development.
As we are purportedly constrained by state and federal law, which courts interpret to require us to accept such harmful corporate activity, we the people of Exeter are unable under our current system of local government to secure human rights and ecosystem rights by banning said activity.
Therefore, we deem it necessary to alter our system of local government, and we do so by adopting this Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance.
Exeter resident Stephanie Marshall recently laid out what's at stake for the town—and the planet. In a letter to the editor published this month at Seacoastonline, she wrote:
Climate change is not too big to tackle and the solutions come from local to global action. Exeter is a likely meter station site for Liberty Utility's proposed Granite Bridge fracked gas pipeline. What's the impact of more natural gas on climate change? Significant and negative; more methane and carbon dioxide emissions, accelerated warming of the earth, faster sea level rise, more floods and wildfires, more threats to agriculture. [...]
In August 2018, the Exeter Select Board unanimously approved an option agreement with Liberty Utilities to serve as a meter site for Granite Bridge pipeline. While some members of the board noted that this did not necessarily signal support for the project, it certainly helps Liberty continue forward on the project. Even if the Select Board and, more importantly Exeter's citizens, oppose this pipeline, it's up to the state to decide if it will be built.
Warrant Article 30 accomplishes two objectives. It assures that Exeter citizens' right to a safe and healthy climate must be considered in any plans for new energy infrastructure and other corporate projects. Secondly, it safeguards that the opinions of citizens have as much standing as those of Liberty Utility or the state government.
The ordinance was drafted with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which describes itself as "spearheading a movement at the local, state, national, and international level to establish rights for humans and nature over the systems that control them."
The group says that the proposed pipeline project would cross eight towns in the state and "threatens to contaminate the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water."
Welcoming the vote, CELDF community organizer Michelle Sanborn said, "The residents of Exeter are well-organized, informed, and engaged." She also cheered the community for "joining a growing Community Rights movement in New Hampshire."
That's reflected in the proposed New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment, which says that "the people of the state may enact local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare."
With a hearing before lawmakers on Wednesday, the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN), which drafted the proposed constitutional amendment along with CELDF, is urging constituents to call their representatives and demand they support the measure.
According to NHCRN, it "will be reintroduced as many times as it takes to pass it. We know from prior people's movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure."
By JASON SCHREIBER Union Leader Correspondent
EPPING -- Voters OK’d a non-binding resolution Tuesday that aims to give residents more of a voice as Liberty Utilities moves ahead with plans to build a liquefied natural gas storage facility off Route 101.
The resolution, which was proposed as a petitioned warrant article and passed 654 yes to 222 no, states that such a facility should not be located in town without voter approval and directs the Legislature and governor to “place and support a state constitutional amendment on the biennial ballot to expressly secure the people’s inherent (and) inalienable right to local community self-government.”
Liberty Utilities is proposing a natural gas pipeline project called Granite Bridge that would run from Stratham to Manchester and wants to build a storage facility in Epping.
The state’s Site Evaluation Committee approves such energy projects.
Voters also approved a $2.19 million wastewater treatment facility upgrade (727 yes, 148 no), but rejected a $3.3 million proposal to decommission lagoons (405 yes, 472 no).
Voters rejected a warrant article that sought to dissolve the town’s water and sewer commission (402 yes, 452 no).
A new three-year teachers’ contract passed (592 yes, 305 no).
By Deborah Sumner Feb 27, 2019New Hampshire has an amazing constitution, but sometimes it needs changing to deal with new challenges. The House Municipal and County Government Committee will hear testimony on CACR 8 , intended to codify our historical right to local self-government, on March 6.
Our Revolutionary War ancestors didn’t fight for corporations to have constitutional rights; they fought for people to have individual rights and authority for collective decision making for the public good. Over the years, well-paid corporate lawyers and lobbyists have argued for corporate civil “rights” in courts and their interests in legislatures. Gradually, settled law gave way to them succeeding more often than ordinary people arguing for the same constitutionally-protected rights.
“We the Corporations” by Adam Winkler shows chronologically how governing authority shifted from “we the people” to corporations and their allies.
Now, we ordinary citizens face huge odds in convincing legislators to support this amendment and allow “the people” to vote on it.
“There are two things that are important in politics,” U.S. Sen. Mark Hanna said in 1898. “The first is money. I can’t remember what the second is.”
According to 2017 polling cited by New Hampshire’s Open Democracy, 80 percent of New Hampshire voters “believe special interests have more influence than voters in state politics.”
“We the Corporations” and well-paid lawyers have won the courts; special interests and well-paid lobbyists have won the Legislature; and big money has won the political process.
As of Jan. 30, there are 88 pages listing New Hampshire lobbyists; some advocate for the public interest. Most ordinary citizens can’t get to Concord to testify at public hearings, but they still show up at town meeting when there’s an issue they care deeply about. If we find later we made a mistake, we can correct it. But that’s almost impossible if the Legislature or court makes a mistake.
New Hampshire courts have recognized the “sovereign” authority of town meeting to direct the “prudential affairs” of the town, pass local laws and enforce penalties for violations dating back to colonial days.
A 1791 law said: … “And be it further enacted that the Inhabitants of every Town in this State qualified by Law to vote in Town affairs at any meeting duly warned and legally holden are hereby empowered to make and agree upon such necessary rules, orders and bylaws for the directing managing or lering the prudential affairs of such Town as they shall judge most conducive to the peace, welfare, interest and good order of the inhabitants of such towns and to annex penalties to such Laws … and to enure to such use as they shall therein direct … Provided such Laws be not repugnant to the Constitution and Laws of this State and provided also that such By-Laws be approved by the Court of General Sessions of the peace in the same County — And the penalty for any breach of such By-Laws shall be recovered before any Justice not interested therein” …
“Lering” means guiding through collective decision making locally to protect the common good. That’s what our New Hampshire and national founders intended. The social contract (our constitutions) depended on informed, engaged citizens with common sense and a fierce loyalty to protect the common good. Passage of CACR 8 reaffirms that inalienable right.
“We the people” bear the major responsibility of whether we survive as a democratic republic: “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 1, 1787.3
Join us in standing for this constitutional codification of our historical right to protect real people, nature and the communities we love. Visit www.nhcommunityrights.org to find out more about this effort.
Deborah Sumner of Jaffrey is a member of the N.H. Community Rights Network. This was adapted from her testimony to be submitted to the House Municipal and County Government Committee regarding CACR 8
Posted Feb 26, 2019 at 2:28 PM Updated Feb 26, 2019 at 2:28 PM
To the Editor:
As a citizen, I feel increasingly overpowered by corporations in decisions that impact my community’s health, safety and natural environment. Corporations are wielding their money to influence decisions in our community. Their prime responsibilities are improving their bottom line and increasing shareholder value. Hearing what local citizens have to say, and fully appreciating the impact of their decisions on a community, are not a priority.
Article 30 is on the ballot for Town Meeting on March 12. A “yes” vote for Article 30 will allow the citizens of Exeter to protect the health, safety and welfare of Exeter residents and its ecosystem. Adopting this ordinance will give us the right to have a say in whether to accept corporate activity that is potentially harmful to our health and safety, and the health and safety of our ecosystem. Corporations would have to consider their project’s impact on Exeter residents and would have to answer to local citizens instead of simply leveraging their influence at the state level. A current example is the proposed Granite Bridge pipeline. Absent the Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance (Article 30), we will have to accept new fossil fuel infrastructure in our community if the state deems this project beneficial.
My favorable opinion of Article 30 is based not just on the Granite Bridge pipeline, and my favorable opinion of Article 30 is not against development in general. My favorable opinion of Article 30 is based on my need for empowerment against corporate decision-making that is based on corporate profits rather than on the health, safety, and rights of citizens.
Please join me in voting yes on Article 30 - voting yes to give voice to our rights in decision-making that impacts our community and ecosystem.
Posted Jan 31, 2019 at 7:00 PM
To the Editor:
There are two citizens’ petitions in particular on this March’s ballot that I hope the people of Exeter will support: the Right to a Healthy Climate rights-based ordinance (warrant Article 30), and the proposal to create a Sustainability Office in town (warrant Article 34).
Both of these initiatives, if voted into action by the townspeople, would prove to be major strides in the effort to create a brighter future - for our community, and beyond. These petitions are about more than protecting the sustained health of our conserved lands, curbing general trends of unchecked development, and preserving our natural resources such as air, water and soil. The petitions are concerned with all of these things, of course. But at their cores, they’re about growing resilience in our community as we proceed in this 21st-century world.
I hope the townspeople will embrace these causes and vote accordingly come March 12.