Pittsburgh Bans Fracking (and Corporate Personhood)
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As Councilman Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”
In addition, with adoption of the ordinance, Pittsburgh became the first city in the U.S. to recognize legally binding rights of nature.
By recognizing the rights of nature, Pittsburgh is effectively protecting ecosystems and natural communities within the city from efforts by corporations to drill there—and by other levels of government to authorize that drilling. Residents of Pittsburgh are empowered by the ordinance to enforce those rights on behalf of threatened ecosystems.
The ordinance now goes to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for signature. Representatives of drilling companies have indicated they may challenge the ban in court.
The Pittsburgh City Council is now reaching out to other communities facing drilling, encouraging them to take similar steps including adoption of local laws that challenge state and corporate disregard for the consent of the governed, and join in the fight for community rights.
Mari Margil and Ben Price wrote this article for YES! Magazine , a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Mari is the associate director and Ben is projects director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund , a nonprofit, public interest law firm providing legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, agriculture, economy, and quality of life.