The struggle for community rights to assert control over environmental disasters in the making continues in Wisconsin. Occasionally we win a case or two, but most of the time, the gigantic corporations are winning. They’re asserting their power over us and passing along their environmental costs to the people, while retaining the profit for their owners. You may be experiencing frac sand mining, CAFO industrial agriculture, Enbridge corporations’ tar sands pipelines, the shipment of explosive crude oil on railcars through your communities, or fracking for oil and gas in those states which have such deposits. How does your community fight this, when the State itself is on the corporations’ side? Paul Cienfuegos has some ideas. Here’s a sample from a recent article, with the full link at the end.
When the State Denies The People Our Inherent Rights, How Should We Respond?
Paul Cienfuegos’ December 23rd, 2014 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org, or subscribe via ITunes. This particular commentary can be heard HERE.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
Since the spring of 2013, I have been traveling to a very beautiful part of the Midwest, where northeast Iowa, western Wisconsin, and southeast Minnesota converge along the magnificent cliffs and wetlands of the Mississippi River watershed. I’ve been leading workshops and giving talks there every few months, to expand the number of communities and states that are shifting gears away from the ultimately dead-end tactic of pleading with regulatory agencies to get corporations to cause a little less harm, and towards a more potent tactic – Community Rights lawmaking.
In this region of the Midwest, the hills are made of a very unusual sand, which, it turns out, is absolutely perfect for use as what is called a “proppant” for the fracking industry. Enormous quantities of this special sand are forced, under high pressure, deep into the ground to prop open the drill holes where the fracking industry captures methane and other gases that are trapped between layers of rock.
Entire hills in this Midwest region are being dynamited to get access to the sand, which is loaded onto long trains and sent 1000 miles or more to fracking operations across the country. Tragically, these mining operations are destroying a way of life in these rural communities that has existed pretty much since the land was originally settled as farms. Most residents have lived in these valleys for five generations or more. But all of that is now changing, as the fracking corporations buy up farmland to get at the sand, and turn family farms and deciduous forest landscapes into devastated and poisoned moonscapes. Communities across this region have mobilized to try to stop it in the only way they know how – by pleading with regulatory agencies – which almost never succeeds.
I am teaching these rural communities how they can instead pass Community Rights ordinances that strip these mining corporations of their so-called constitutional “rights”, that enshrine the local community’s right to self-government, and that ban frac sand mining entirely. This tactic is a lot more politically and legally and culturally powerful than what local communities are used to trying, and I’ve already succeeded in helping four counties to launch Community Rights efforts, which is a very big and bold step for a rural community to take, especially given that these local ordinances are not yet legal – that they are themselves acts of civil disobedience through local law-making, which empowers local residents, and which forces the state and the corporations to change tactics in the way they challenge these local laws.