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Publisher and Editor - Judith Martin-Straw

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Democracy School – Corporate Rights Unraveled

The dozens of people filling the Garden Room at the Vets Auditorium late Sunday afternoon April 21 were there to listen to Ben Price, Projects Director of  the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (pictured left), and Shannon Biggs, Director of the Community Rights Program of Global Exchange.

The presentation called “Democracy School” was a brief and blunt tutorial on how corporate power is protected by law, and what citizens, both as individuals and groups, could do to protect their right to local control.

Focusing on the legal challenge to fracking, (and in turn on the challenges Culver City is dealing with in regard to PXP and the Baldwin Hills Oil Field) Price and Biggs spoke of other municipalities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York that had to deal with similar circumstances. Concerns about health, safety, property values and emergency preparedness all come into consideration by the citizens. Corporations have many legal means to override and ignore these local concerns.

“Local political interests are deemed to be subordinate to state interests, and the state has the right to offer resources to corporations as they see fit, ” noted Price. “They absolutely have the legal right to do so. So how do we make legal the world that we want ?”

Noting that regulatory agencies are both the branches of government and the tools of the corporate interests to mitigate the use of resources, local concerns are often whittled down to “what we think we can get, what we feel we have to settle for,” said Price. “Regulatory agencies are not required or inclined to address all of the citizen’s concerns.”

Noting that “People who go outside the law, outside the courts, outside the regulatory agencies, they are dismissed as crazy. We have to understand that this is the culture we live in.”

Shannon Biggs offered the example Doug Shields, a former member of the Pittsburgh City Council saying that “If we come into court and say the sky is blue, and the [oil company] comes into court and says the sky is pink, the media will report that there is a controversy in regard to the color of the sky.”

The Sky is Pink is a film from Josh Fox, the director of Gasland, and when it was time for the Q & A, several people in the audience cited the film as one of their sources of daunting information in regard to fracking.

While the comment period is still open for Culver City discussion for Draft Oil Drilling Regulations until June 3  to add their voices, (go to www.culvercity.org/en/inglewoodoilfield/DiscussionDraft.aspx) now is an apt moment for Culver City to  take up discussions of local control.

Editor’s Note – Doug Shields is expected to be present at the City Council meeting on April 22 (tonight) to speak in regard to fracking.

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