Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
No matter what the issue, the problem is the same... Communities are stuck inside a box:
The Box of Allowable Activism above depicts how communities are boxed in by a legal system designed to protect corporate interests and limit their rights to local self-government.
Corporate Privilege: Often referred to as corporate “rights” or corporate “personhood,” it means that corporations claim “rights” to protections of free speech (1st amendment/money as speech), protections from search and seizure (4th amendment), due process and lost future profits (5th amendment Takings clause) and equal protection (14th amendment). Contracts clause protections, civil rights laws, and commerce laws, further amplify corporate power to override local decision-making.
State Preemption: State legislatures enact laws that remove authority from communities and define the legal relationship between the state and municipalities as that of a parent to a child. This deprives communities of their own rights.
The Regulatory Fallacy: The permitting process, and the regulations supposedly enforced by regulatory agencies, are intended to create a sense of protection and objective oversight. By working through regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and our state agencies, we’re told we can protect our community. We can challenge permit applications and demand regulations be enforced. Except, by their very definition, regulatory agencies regulate the amount of harm that takes place. When they issue permits, they give cover to the applicant against liability to the community for the legalized harm.
- Nature as Property: Nature is considered property by law, meaning anyone with title to property has the legal right to destroy it. This allows the actions of a few to impact the entire ecosystem of a community.