Opinion: Grassroots Nonprofit Supports State Constitutional Amendment to Guarantee Community Rights

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the Northeast Gas Association do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of InDepthNH.org

Concord – Representative Ellen Read of Rockingham District 17, has introduced a State Constitutional amendment that would guarantee local communities the authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of individuals, communities and nature.

The Community Rights amendment was drafted by New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with assistance from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Representative Read said she is proud to sponsor the amendment to “ensure protections for the people and ecosystems of the Granite State that currently do not have governing authority over decisions that directly affect them.”

The legislation grew out of the frustration of many New Hampshire residents who have been thwarted in their efforts to protect their local identity, ecosystems, unalienable rights and individual property rights. Towns are preempted by state and federal governments, in partnership with corporate special interests, without Towns’ consent and with no regard for their welfare.

Proposals including gas pipelines and compressor stations, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind ventures, water extraction projects and other harms, have threatened New Hampshire people and ecosystems. These projects are approved by many state elected officials and state agencies.

A growing number of communities have acted to protect themselves by passing Rights-Based Ordinances (RBOs) at their town meetings. RBOs, developed by people in those communities with CELDF’s assistance, are grounded in the unalienable right affirmed in the Declaration of Independence and the New Hampshire State Constitution: our individual and collective right to self-govern.

Representative Read said that when NHCRN brought the amendment proposal to her attention, she immediately saw the need to step up and set an example for other elected officials to follow. She stated,

“I truly hope my colleagues join me in supporting the Community Rights Amendment because it means doing exactly what we came to Concord to do – protect the people and resources of NH.  This Amendment is needed to reestablish the inherent and inalienable rights of individuals, their communities, and nature. Too often, big out-of-state corporations, that come in looking to profit off of Granite Staters and our land, are given MORE rights than our own people and ecosystems!  This amendment places power back into the hands of the governed…the very thing our Revolutionary ancestors fought for.”

Michelle Sanborn, volunteer coordinator for the NHCRN and community organizer for CELDF, stated, “This amendment would empower communities to enact local laws that protect health, safety and welfare for residents and their natural environments by recognizing, securing and protecting rights greater than those afforded by existing laws. That means authority to prohibit harmful corporate activities that seek to threaten local community rights.”

NHCRN was founded in 2013, with supporters from across New Hampshire. This includes Alexandria, Barnstead, Barrington, Danbury, Easton, Grafton, Hebron, Jaffrey, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sugar Hill, Swanzey, Thornton, Newmarket, Merrimack and Durham. Other states are also involved in the community rights movement including Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maine. NHCRN advocates for change that begins at the grassroots level. For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact info@nhcommunityrights.org.

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About NHCRN – New Hampshire Community Rights Network

 NHCRN is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities and elected officials with education and authority about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice, including the rights of nature.

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