Creative opposition to corporation illegal sludge disposal
ANOTHER PENNSYLVANIA TOWNSHIP STRIPS CORPORATIONS OF 'RIGHTS'
Chambersburg, Pa. -- On December 6th, 2006, the Board of Supervisors
for East Brunswick Township in Schuylkill County, Pa., unanimously
passed a law declaring that sludge corporations possess no
constitutional "rights" within the community.
East Brunswick is the eighth local government in the country to
abolish the illegitimate "rights" and legal privileges claimed by
corporations, and the fourth community in the nation to recognize the
rights of nature.
The ordinance takes the offense in challenging corporate managers in
Pennsylvania and around the nation, who effortlessly wield those
constitutional "rights" and legal privileges to dictate corporate
values and nullify local laws.
The East Brunswick Township law
(1) bans corporations from engaging in the land application of sewage
sludge within the Township;
(2) recognizes that ecosystems in East Brunswick possess enforceable
rights against corporations;
(3) asserts that corporations doing business in East Brunswick will
henceforth be treated as "state actors" under the law, and thus, be
required to respect the rights of people and natural communities
within the Township; and
(4) establishes that East Brunswick residents can bring lawsuits to
vindicate not only their own civil rights, but also the newly-mandated
rights of Nature.
In the ordinance, the Township Board of Supervisors declared that if
state and federal agencies -- or corporate managers -- attempt to
invalidate the ordinance, a Township-wide public meeting would be
hosted to determine additional steps to expand local control and self-
governance within the Township.
Adoption of the ordinance came after community residents organized
educational forums and hosted the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund to discuss its rights-based strategy for confronting
corporate and state preemptions of community self-governance.
Annette Etchberger, Regina Wiyda and Dr. Glen Freed took the lead in
generating tremendous public support for an ordinance that asserts
rights and creates tools for their enforcement. Traveling door-to-door
and inviting hundreds to attend meetings that typically draw a handful
of citizens, they put pressure on defiant Township Supervisors, who
reluctantly called special meetings for discussion of the cutting edge
Success was not immediate. Faced with intense public pressure from
residents who packed meetings and insisted on passage of the
ordinance, former Vice Chairman Mark J. Killian Sr. resigned on
October 12th and former supervisor Glenn Miller, resigned on November
1st. They had been unwilling to act upon the will of the people by
confronting the sludge-hauling corporations. Their resignations
delayed consideration of the law until replacements were appointed.
But on December 6th, with a newly constituted Board of Supervisors,
the ordinance was passed unanimously.
Ben Price, the Projects Director for the Community Environmental
Legal Defense Fund, the organization that helped draft the ordinance
said, "The East Brunswick Township Board of Supervisors has, at last,
heard the voice of the people and acted in the best interests of human
and natural communities. Instead of protecting the interests of
corporate directors for sludge hauling corporations, they've taken
their oaths seriously, to protect the health, safety and welfare of
everyone in East Brunswick. The people of East Brunswick Township have
for months been demanding that their Supervisors challenge the
usurpation of local democracy by corporate officers. They've been
telling their elected officials that it is time to confront the
illegitimate delegation of constitutional privileges on corporations,
and reject the State's nullification of community self-governance. On
December 6th, they finally listened."
Richard Grossman, the Legal Defense Fund's historian, noted: "A slave
system once drove the entire country, North and South. Our nation is
now governed by a corporate system. Like the slave system, today's
corporate system calls upon the law to deny fundamental rights of
people and communities.
"East Brunswick has joined other Pennsylvania municipalities in
contesting the constitutional, legal and cultural chains that bind
communities to the corporate system. They have heroically nullified
corporate privilege delivered from on high by exercising democratic
rule of law from below."
The East Brunswick ordinance is the result of countywide ferment
against state regulatory agency interference in local decision-making
on behalf of sludge and dredge corporations. Thousands of people in
Schuylkill County now see that regulatory laws and agencies aid and
abet corporate managers to dump their toxins, pathogens and
carcinogens in people's front yards and into the living environment.
In September of this year Tamaqua Borough and Rush Township passed
Schuylkill County has a long history of people's struggles to wrest
rights and governance from oppressive corporate railroad and coal
barons. As Prof. Grace Palladino has detailed in her gripping history,
Another Civil War -- Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite
Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868, "in the coal regions... corporate
lawyers and government officials creatively interpreted the law.
Industrialists retained a remarkable ability to command the coercive
power of the state to protect their particular economic interests."
Since the 1840s, as the people who live there well know, corporations
have used the County as a resource colony. Today, state and federal
government officials join corporate directors in viewing Schuylkill
County as a "sacrifice zone" where they can simply plug the old
corporate holes that enriched a few tyrants with new corporate poisons
that help fuel today's corporate system.
Schuylkill citizens are asserting their inalienable rights, and are
rallying to pass local laws to create democratic self-governance in
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in
Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995
to assert their fundamental rights to democratic self-governance, and
to enact laws that end destructive and rights-denying corporate
action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.