Strips oil and gas corporations of the rights of “persons”
Mora County (4/29/2013) – On April 29th, at a special meeting called by the Mora County Board of Commissioners to vote on a “Community Bill of Rights,” Mora became the first County in the United States to permanently ban the extraction of oil and gas.
For years, Mora County has been threatened by “hydro-fracking,” along with other forms of oil and gas extraction. After enacting a temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling, the County Commissioners adopted a local bill of rights that permanently bans the extraction of oil and gas within the County. In doing so, they follow the lead of over three dozen municipalities on the East Coast – including the City of Pittsburgh – who have adopted local bills of rights to ban “fracking” and other extraction.
The Community Bill of Rights – known as the “Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance” – establishes the right of Mora residents to unpolluted water for agriculture, the right to a sustainable and renewable energy future, and the right to self-government. It also recognizes that ecosystems and natural communities – that could be damaged by oil and gas extraction – have a right to exist and flourish. It then prohibits corporations from extracting hydrocarbons, engaging in the sale of water for energy extraction, or constructing pipelines or other infrastructure to distribute oil and gas.
To protect the enforceability of the ordinance, the law also refuses to recognize that oil and gas corporations possess constitutional and other legal rights within the County of Mora, nullifies state and federal permits issued in violation of the ordinance, and imposes strict liability on corporations engaged in oil and gas operations in neighboring municipalities.
John Olivas, the Chairman of the Mora County Commissioners, declared, “It’s time for all communities to do what we’ve done – announce the end to extractive activities that threaten our land, our water, and our way of life. If the federal and state government won’t do it, we must. The people and lands of our own communities must come first, not the profits of gas and oil corporations.”
Alfonso Griego, the Vice Chairman of the Mora County Commissioners, explained, “We’re prepared to fight for this ordinance – it’s the only thing standing in the way of the oil and gas corporations. Redefining the rights and powers of those corporations – so that our residents have more rights than corporate decisionmakers – is an essential part of our local Bill of Rights.”
Olivas and Griego both called on the New Mexico legislature to adopt a bill that would protect New Mexico Counties that adopt similar legislation. A new organization, the New Mexico Coalition for Community Rights (NMCCR), was created last year by residents of several communities across the state to support that effort.