Photograph taken by Joanne Koehler.
This is a guest post by Jamie Longazel and Joanne Koehler. Jamie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of Dayton. Joanne is a recent graduate of the University of Dayton, receiving degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies.
There is an interesting and potentially important fracking case going on New Mexico right now. The Mora County Commissioners passed the Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance, making it illegal for gas and oil companies to extract hydrocarbons within county limits. The ordinance, which has been dubbed “The Mother of all Anti-Fracking Tools,” has not surprisingly been challenged in court. Claimants, who most notably include Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world, suggest the measure violates their right to corporate personhood, controversially affirmed recently in the Citizens United case.
Other municipalities have banned fracking within city limits, often by tweaking zoning laws. What makes this case unique is that it is situated at the county level, effectively banning the practice not just within city limits, where fracking rarely takes place anyway, but across mass swaths of potentially ‘frackable’ land.
From an environmental perspective, the Mora County ordinance is impressively bold. It goes so far as to establish “a local bill of rights for Mora County that protects the natural sources of water from damage related to the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons.”
From a sociolegal perspective, the ordinance helps to level the playing field. With Mora County residents standing together as a collective and being represented by an experienced litigating group (specifically, the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund), they stand a better chance of having their voices heard and resources protected than others in situations where companies run freely from door to door wooing landowners with offers they often cannot refuse. (more…)