Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, Adopts Community Rights Ordinance That Bans Drilling for Natural Gas

“The people have rights. Corporations can’t be licensed to take them away” – Mayor Leo Martin

Another courageous council and mayor to adopt a prohibitive community rights ordinance that protects the citizens rights to clean water, air, land.......

March 3rd 2011

 Mountain Lake Park in Garrett County, Maryland, has joined Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in adopting a Community Bill of Rights that also “removes legal powers from gas extraction corporations within the Town.”

Ordinance No. 2011-01 was introduced to Council by Mayor Leo Martin for a First Reading of the bill, titled Mountain Lake Park’s Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance, on January 6th of this year, and a public hearing on the measure was held February 3rd.

At the heart of the Ordinance is this statement of law: “It shall be unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas within the Town of Mountain Lake Park, with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of this Ordinance.”

The bill also recognizes the right of the people to “a form of governance where they live which recognizes that all power is inherent in the people, that all free governments are founded on the people’s authority and consent, and that corporate entities and their directors and managers shall not enjoy special privileges or powers under the law which make community majorities subordinate to them.”

Following adoption of the ordinance, Mayor Martin commented: "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.”

Also included in the ordinance is a local Bill of Rights that asserts legal protections for the right to water; the rights of natural communities and eco-systems; the right to local self-government, and the right of the people to enforce and protect these rights by banning corporate activities that would violate them, through the police powers of their municipal government.

The bill was modeled after the Ordinance adopted on November 16th of last year by the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “If Pittsburgh can do it, we can do it,” said the Mayor, as he introduced the Ordinance in January, and he indicated that other Maryland municipalities should take a similar stand.

The gas extraction technique known as “fracking” has been cited as a threat to surface and ground water throughout the region, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local streams, the air and soil. Collateral damage includes lost property value, ingestion of toxins by livestock, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and threatened loss of organic certification for farmers in the affected communities.

Ben Price, Projects Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, applauded the Mayor for taking a stand on behalf of community rights. “The State says Maryland residents don’t have the right to decide whether or not they get fracked and that only the corporate-lobbied members of the legislature have the wisdom to decide how much harm should be legalized through state-issued permits. We don’t have a gas drilling problem. We have a democracy problem. Its symptoms are the State’s refusal to recognize the right to local, community self-government, and the issuance of permits to drilling corporations against the consent of the governed.”

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, headquartered in Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.
CONTACT: Ben Price, (717) 254-3233