The ordinance sponsor, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, led the charge to ban drilling, and was later joined by five co-sponsors. During the months leading up to today’s vote, Shields passionately advocated for the ordinance, saying that the city is “not a colony of the state and will not sit quietly by as our city gets drilled.” He sees this fight as about far more than drilling, saying “It’s about our authority as a community to decide, not corporations deciding for us.”These issues have come up elsewhere and will likely escalate. We can expect that more local governments will take up this CELDF ordinance to resist corporate encroachments on their communities and their environments. A lot of the outrage in Pittsburgh has been the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that has granted corporations more rights than its citizens. Corporations are individuals with more legal and procedural power, freedom, and rights than you and your neighbors (image courtesy of Yes!). The Pittsburgh ordinance confronts that face-on:
Drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Pittsburgh’s ordinance elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate “rights” and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making.
So what do you think? Should people press these onward at multiple levels? Or should there be some more moderated approach through stricter or more efficient regulation?
As Councilman Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”
Provisions in the ordinance eliminate corporate “personhood” rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill, and remove the ability of corporations to wield the Commerce and Contracts Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to override community decision-making.