ALEXANDRIA – The New Hampshire Community Rights Network has found a legislative sponsor for its proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee local communities’ rights over their own lands.
Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Cheshire District 11, has introduced a constitutional amendment that guarantees local communities the authority to protect their environment, community and individual rights “free from state preemption and corporate interference.”
The network was formed as wind power companies from Spain and Portugal propose new wind power plants near Newfound Lake. Communities in the area, which voted overwhelmingly to oppose such projects, found that they had little or no control under state law, as the authority over large energy projects belonged to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.
One of the wind power proposals from a Spanish developer for the Wild Meadows plan was abandoned by the company for several reasons, among them what the company described as a “negative political climate” for new wind projects in the state. Another proposal from EDP Renewables of Portugal for the Spruce Ridge development is still being pursued by the company.
The network grew and embraced several other issues, including Northern Pass and the Liberty-Kinder Morgan proposal, which are seen as issues that should be decided on the basis of what the communities want, not what large companies are seeking.
“The common denominator for community involvement is the need for the recognition of the rights of people, communities, and nature, within our state Constitution, over the rights of corporations to violate the rights of people, communities, and nature,” said Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria, coordinator for the network.
At present, the network includes the communities of Sugar Hill, Easton, Plymouth, Grafton, Danbury, Alexandria, Hebron, Barnstead, Nottingham and Barrington. It arose in response “to a decade-long grassroots people’s movement for local control to decide what happens in the places where we live,” Sanborn said.
The movement is part of a larger national movement for community rights and local control. There are similar groups in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico and several other states. The proposed amendment is similar to amendments currently being proposed in Colorado and Oregon, Sanborn said.
Emerson said the amendment is needed to ensure local control, as the SEC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are – at present – the agencies that decide such projects.
“Too often the interests of big corporations are considered and the rights of our constituents are ignored when we in the Legislature enact preemptions that forbid local lawmaking. And too often wealthy corporations threaten to bankrupt towns that stand up to them,” she said. “This amendment will put self-government at the local level back into the hands of the people.”
“We call upon all the legislators of New Hampshire to rise up and represent the communities of this fine state by supporting the proposed Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment to our state Constitution,” Sanborn said.
For more information about the New Hampshire Community Rights Network or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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