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STEWC has been encouraging local communities to gain control over development in their jurisdictions by using Rights Based Ordinances (RBOs). Critical in this is learning how local democratic institutions stack up against state and federal institutions as well as corporations, which currently have rights and powers equivalent to those of state governments. The CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, www.celdf.org) has helped tremendously in our efforts. They provide free legal services to community-based groups and local governments working to protect their quality of life and natural environment from specific unwanted threats. Members of STEWC have helped organize several workshops led by CELDF staff over the last two years in various communities, and more will come.
Specific to communities in the path of the East-West Corridor, RBOs give local people the power to say "no" by calling on law in the Maine State Constitution that gives us the right to protect our health, safety, and welfare, and to change laws that are not serving us (such as the ones enabling corporations by permitting their harm to our communities). RBOs give local people more control. The RBO adopted by Sangerville is a model case. (See also CELDF press release and video of Sangerville meeting.) It by no means prohibits development in general, as some opponents have argued, only development specific to the prohibition, an unsustainable transportation or energy corridor.
These ordinances give local people more rights by elevating their rights above those of corporations. These are not zoning ordinances, they are local civil-rights laws, and that also means that they would be much less expensive to litigate than a regulatory ordinance, because the bottom line is about community rights, not permit details. In addition, the RBO gives nature rights, which must be part of the ordinance because, through permitting, corporations have the right to irreparably damage the land, affecting everyone who lives there and beyond. Rights of nature give local people the power they need to protect their communities from the prohibited development---that is all. STEWC wants to share the truth and power about these ordinances, to protect each other from mega-development by transnational corporations who do not seem to care about the interests of our communities or the environment that sustains us.
See News Articles page (articles of December, 2013, and March 6, 2014) for further news about RBOs