Monday, March 24, 2008

Water work victories in New Hampshire

Ruth Caplan, chair of AfD's Defending Water for Life campaign and co-chair of the campaign for Corporate Globalization and Positive Alterntives, writes that residents in Barnstead and Nottingham, New Hampshire, have passed town-meeting warrant articles to protect the rights of nature and provide broad enforcement provisions to hold government and corporate officials liable when those rights are deemed to have been abused.

The Barnstead article amended the "Water Rights and Local Self-Government" ordinance that residents passed in 2006 by a 136-1 vote. The amendment also passed overwhelmingly, according to Ruth. It reads, "Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the Town of Barnstead. Ecosystems shall include, but not be limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers, and other water systems."

Meanwhile, in nearby Nottingham, a similar ordinance on Water Rights and Local Self-Government passed 175-11. Nottingham residents, along with neighbors in Barrington, formed Save Our Groundwater and fought USA Springs for five years, only to fail to stop the bottling company. Some Nottingham residents then formed the Nottingham Tea Party (read a profile of two organizers here), to lay the foundation for an ordinance similar to Barnstead's. Ruth notes that with the foundation for USA Spring's bottling plant already constructed, the Nottingham victory is especially sweet.

Click the Read More link below to see the wording of the Barnstead enforcement ordinance. Check the AfD website's "Defending Water for Life" sections for more information on Barnstead and on the fight to keep water out of private hands.

"Section 7.1. Civil Rights: Any person acting under the authority of a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Services, any corporation operating under a State charter or certificate of authority to do business, or any director, officer, owner, or manager of a corporation operating under a State charter or certificate of authority to do business, who deprives any Town resident, natural community, or ecosystem of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by this Warrant Article, the New Hampshire Constitution, the United States Constitution, or other laws, shall be liable to the party injured and shall be responsible for payment of compensatory and punitive damages and all costs of litigation to satisfy that liability, including, without limitation, expert and attorney's fees. Compensatory and punitive damages paid to remedy the violation of the rights of natural communities and ecosystems shall be paid to the Town of Barnstead for restoration of those natural communities and ecosystems.

"Section 7.2. Environmental Protection: It shall be unlawful for any corporation or its directors, officers, owners, or managers to interfere with the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish, or to cause damage to those natural communities and ecosystems. The Town of Barnstead, along with any resident of the Town, shall have standing to seek declaratory, injunctive, compensatory, and punitive relief for damages caused to natural communities and ecosystems within the Town, regardless of the relation of those natural communities and ecosystems to Town residents or the Town itself. Town residents, natural communities, and ecosystems shall be considered to be "persons" for purposes of the enforcement of the civil rights of those residents, natural communities, and ecosystems."

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