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Energy Company's Shocking Plan to Spray Clouds with Toxic Chemical to Increase Rainfall -- and Make Hydropower Profits

The practice known as 'cloud seeding' has been done in California for decades. But the environmental costs are high and the regulations for corporations nonexistent.

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"Finally," Price said, "surrounding this multi-layered ordinance are two particular prohibitions: corporations may not engage in cloud seeding within the city of Mt. Shasta, and corporations may not engage in water withdrawals for export outside of the city."

Resident John Roshak said, "This is a chance for our community to stand with those communities in Appalachia facing mountaintop removal, with those in the Gulf facing the loss of their fisheries to the BP oil spill, and all communities seeing their environments massacred by corporate personhood."

After a meeting that stretched to 3 hours, with nearly everyone in the packed room offering testimony for or against, the City Council voted 5-to-0 to put the ordinance on November's ballot. However, despite the unanimous vote, several council members expressed deep concerns.

If the ordinance passes, Mt. Shasta will be the first community in California to pass a law asserting self-government, and stripping corporations of their rights within a local jurisdiction. Similar laws have been enacted in 125 communities in other states; these new laws excite advocates, who see such legal challenges as essential to reclaiming citizen power and promoting sustainability. But agencies and individuals tasked with enacting regulatory frameworks and upholding the law as it stands see ample cause for concern.

Ned Boss, a Mt. Shasta City Council member, said at the May 24 meeting, "The City does not have the power to enforce rules that are not in accordance with state law. This ordinance will have to be enforced by the courts. This could bankrupt the city."

Melinda Willey, a Mt. Shasta resident who had hosted an information-sharing event at her house the day before, told the City Council, "We are your bosses. But it is the state that sanctions your actions. So you are forced to choose between who you serve and who you are sanctioned by. This law will empower you to stand up for us."

A report prepared for the City Council by City Attorney John Kenney expressed concern about "logrolling," the common practice of combing numerous unrelated issues into a single initiative, said the ordinance "would create tremendous confusion," and declared it to be unconstitutional.

Chief among the report's concerns is precisely "the assertion of pre-existing rights": "The ordinance attempts to create new civil rights in contravention of those established by the California Civil Code. For example, it creates in all citizens of Mt. Shasta, the 'fundamental and inalienable right to a healthy environment...the right to a natural environmental climate unaltered by human intervention, and the right to protect the rights of natural communities and ecosystems....'" The ordinance, City Attorney Kenney's report states, "attempts to create new rights and liabilities that are contrary to the body of law establishing rights, liabilities and damages adopted by the state legislature. The City has no such authority."

The City Attorney's report, which served as the basis of the City Council's deliberation, concludes with an overarching concern: "What would happen if every city were allowed to pass ordinances superior to and conflicting with federal, state and other local laws? Each City's 'self-governance' ordinances would claim to be superior to any law of whatever origin to the contrary. Which would trump which? What would happen to the rule of law?"

Shannon Biggs, Director of Global Exchange's Community Rights Program, who spoke at the May 24 meeting, addressed that concern directly: "Slavery was legal and constitutional, but illegitimate and unjust, because it was depriving the rights of human beings. Our history has been peppered with opportunities for popular movements to drive new laws to protect rights. The suffragettes, civil rights.... Local self-governance is the new frontier in the ongoing movement for rights."