Finally, The Court Case We’ve All Been Waiting For

by: Posted on: December 08, 2013

Editor’s Note: The first county to elevate its right to self-govern above corporate constitutional protections is headed to federal court.

By Kathleen Dudley, New Mexico Community Organizer


Mora County Commission Votes to Defend their CELDF Bill of Rights Ordinance that Bans Fracking


The Mora County Commission voted unanimously yesterday in an historical vote to defend their CELDF Community Rights ordinance rather than to dismiss the ordinance. Known as the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance, this ordinance which was passed into law in a 2:1 vote April, 2013, bans oil and gas extraction and other hydrocarbons within Mora County.

During the special Mora County Commission meeting, the Commissioners voted to defend the ordinance, to hire their legal counsel, and on how to respond to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit was filed November 12th in federal court by three corporations and one individual. The plaintiffs are asserting their corporate “rights” through the 1st, 5th, and 14th Amendments. Even the one private landowner (who owns less than ¾ of an acre in Mora) is asserting a corporate right to drill and extract on her property. They are all seeking to use the very corporate “rights” that the ordinance challenges.

The lawsuit was expected and anticipated by the Mora County Commission and the community who engaged in the collaborative work with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to draft the ordinance. CELDF assisted local business leaders, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes, grazing permittees, elected officials and several community members in drafting the Mora County Community Rights Ordinance that bans oil and gas extraction and other hydrocarbons within Mora County.

The Commission voted to hire three law firms to defend their new law–Pennsylvania-based CELDF, Santa Fe’s New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), and Santa Fe attorney, Daniel Brannen, a CELDF associate.

There are currently over 160 communities across the United States who have passed CELDF Community RIghts ordinances. Mora County’s is one of the 19 CELDF ordinances that bans “big oil” while asserting their rights to local self-governance and self-determination, and the first to be sued for banning drilling and fracking.

“The focus of the lawsuit won’t be on fracking, but on challenging the current fact that corporations (like the plaintiffs) have more rights than the people of Mora County. In other words, we don’t have a fracking problem, we have a democracy problem, states Kathleen Dudley, CELDF New Mexico Community Rights organizer.

Mora County Commissioner Chair John Olivas stated earlier, “It is unfortunate that counties and municipalities cannot say “no” to corporate development without the threat of litigation.”

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