In 1999, CELDF made a dramatic turn in its public interest environmental law work when it stopped being involved with more conventional single-issue one-corporate-harm-at-a-time legal defense work through the regulatory arena of law, and instead began to help rural communities to write paradigm-shifting laws that banned (rather than regulated) harmful corporate activities, and challenged for the first time the legitimacy of corporations exercising constitutional so-called “rights”. It was at this point that the movement took on the name Community Rights, a name that has since stuck.
It all began in the conservative family farming community of Wells Township, Pennsylvania, when the local farmers rose up to stop a massive farm factory of hogs from being built in their township. Their township supervisors unanimously passed an anti-corporate-farming ordinance that directly challenged three structures of law that the farmers considered to be illegitimate – corporate constitutional “rights”, state preemption, and Dillon’s Rule. From there, the movement took off across rural Pennsylvania, rural Maine, and beyond.
Fast forward to the present, and there are now more than 200 communities and counties in nine states that have successfully passed Community Rights ordinances. And so far, only about 5% of these places have had their local ordinances legally challenged.