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Right to local self-governance

Move Coos County toward a sustainable energy future and likewise prohibit the use of eminent domain

Right to local self-governance

“All governments in the United States owe their existence to the people of the community that those governments serve, and governments exist to secure and protect the rights of the people and those communities. Any system of government that becomes destructive of those ends is not legitimate, lawful, or constitutional.” Draft local ordinance

Time and again we have been told that FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), not the people who live here, has the sole authority to decide whether or not a liquefied natural gas terminal will be built in Coos County. Across the country, communities are told they have no local authority to stop unwanted development that is deemed “legal” by state and federal agencies. Legal uses includes 10,000 head factory farms, the disposal of human sewage sludge on rural fields as fertilizer, chemical fertilizer plants and, of course, the “transporting, handling, production, and burning of fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy systems.”

More and more communities, however, are asserting their right to self-governance and enacting rights and writing ordinances to stop harmful development and challenge state and federal authority. In Oregon, despite a preemptive law co-authored by local Senators Arnie Roblan and Jeff Kruse to prohibit local decision making related to genetically modified foods, Benton and Lane counties have drafted ordinances they hope to have on the May 2015 ballot to protect organic farms by banning GMOs. Josephine and Jackson County passed measures banning GMOs this May and now Josephine is similarly striving to place an ordinance on the ballot this November to protect citizens’ right to clean air and water that will ban toxic pesticides. (Take that Arnie!)

In Oregon, development and environmental rules aren’t the only laws being challenged at the local level. The Lane County Commission is considering an ordinance outlawing provisions of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) deemed to be unconstitutional.

To be clear, there is expected to be push back from special interests that stand to gain from wresting control away from local communities. In Vermont, a statewide law requiring all GMO foods be labeled is already being challenged by lobbyists for the food processing industry. In Colorado, the Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Lafayette to overturn a Community Bill of Rights that enabled the town to ban fracking as a violation of those rights. Lawyers for the Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) threatened to sue the Grant Township for infringing on their corporate rights when the community refused to allow PGE to inject toxic waste into their groundwater. The community held fast, however, and are prepared to battle it out in the courts to determine whether corporate rights trump individual rights. These challenges are long overdue.

Obviously, Coos County has a right to local self-governance as well as a right to a sustainable economic and energy future. To that end and working with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a group has formed to put an ordinance on the ballot by next May that will move Coos County toward a sustainable energy future and likewise prohibit the use of eminent domain for purposes of obtaining land for unsustainable fossil fuel development and transportation. The ordinance will also refuse to recognize corporations as “persons.”

If you would like to be a part of this effort let me know.

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About magix

When my oldest son, a Marine, left for war and crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq in March 2003 I started writing my conscience. After two tours that young combat veteran’s mother is now an ardent peace activist and advocate for social, environmental and economic justice. MGx has matured since those early vents and ramblings and now covers relevant and important local and regional matters in addition to national and global affairs.


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3 Responses to "Right to local self-governance"

  1. Kurt Clay  August 23, 2014 at 10:09 AM


  2. Salmonologist  August 21, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Mary – you have my email address, I’d like to be involved in this. Thanks.


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