March 13, 2012

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund works with communities across the country facing a range of threats - from the privatization of their water by corporations, to factory farms, to the land application of sewage sludge, coal and uranium mining, corporate land "development", toxic trespass and gas drilling.

Click on photo to visit web site

Community Organizing


In thousands of counties and towns, boroughs and cities, people gather together with their neighbors to discuss what can be done to stop unwanted projects that the local citizens have determined will be harmful, if allowed. Landfills, mining projects, ground water withdrawal for commercial marketing, factory farms, sewage sludge dumping, waste incinerators, giant chain store sitings, and thousands of other schemes destined to transform communities into resource extraction and waste-disposal colonies for corporate profit horrify the people living in areas targeted for abuse. What they are told by state agencies, environmental and land use attorneys and other “experts” to whom they turn for help is that saying “no” is not an option. Each of these “uses of land” has been determined by their state legislatures to be legal and, being legal, they may not be denied a place in the places where we live and raise our families. The best we can do, so we are told, is work diligently to ensure existing legal regulations are enforced and adhered to, and in this way we can minimize, to the extent legally permitted, the amount of harm we are required to endure. But it is illegal, under regulatory law, to simply say “we consent to no harm at all.” It is illegal to say “no.”

But it is not difficult to demonstrate the truth of our corporate initiated and state-sponsored deprivation of fundamental rights. In a legal brief filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, the People’s top legal representative wrote in bold letters these words: “There is no inalienable right to local self-government.” Then, turning to dead judges and moldering legal scholars once alive in their jealousy that elite privileges might have to be shared among the rabble, the State Attorney General resurrected old “case law” in support of his view that the People are subordinate to, not the sovereigns of the State. What was the occasion for this legal tantrum? Under the misguided belief that a state law passed two years ago authorizes the Attorney General to sue local governments for daring to interfere with the ongoing corporate monopolization of agriculture, his office brought suit to overturn a Township ordinance that prohibits corporations from engaging in the land dumping of sewage sludge.

This attitude of power as a top-down monopoly over decision-making is not unique to Pennsylvania. It is, rather, endemic to our systems of law and governance, in every State, and is the object of our attention and work.

The Legal Defense Fund has staked out its mission to assist communities and community governments to establish and assert currently denied self-governing rights and authority. The questions I ask everyone who contacts the office seeking help with saying “no” to corporate and state abetted assaults are two: 1) in your community, when it comes to making decisions on issues which directly affect your community, families, neighbors, environment, future generations and quality of life, is it the people affected who make those decisions? If yes, then self-governance and consent of the governed are alive and well where you live. If not, then fundamental rights are being denied you and your community. 2) If the answer is no, then are you prepared to change that, to assert your rights, overcome injustice and establish self-government and consent of the governed where you live, for yourself and for future generations?
Full article

If you are interested in learning more about our work and the issues we work on, contact us at