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Community Rights movement dealt a setback with New Mexico court ruling

Posted: Sun, Jan 25, 2015 6:57 PM

In September of last year, Winneshiek County supporters of a community rights ordinance to prevent frac sand mining in the county invited  Mora County, New Mexico Commissioner John Olivas to speak to their group about using a community rights ordinance to block the actions of corporations. 

Olivas spoke in Decorah about how Mora County passed a fracking ban and wrote an ordinance asserting its community rights to its own resources, especially its groundwater.  However, four private landowners backed by oil and gas interests sued Mora County, alleging violation of their constitutional rights.

Now a federal judge in a New Mexico court has ruled on the lawsuit--and has completely sided with the private landowners, saying the Mora County ordinance is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge James O. Browning ruled that the Mora County community rights ordinance clashes with federal law and therefore is unconstitutional, since county ordinances cannot supersede federal law.  Browning ruled that the ordinance deprived a corporation of their guaranteed rights.

The Mora County ordinance had cited as justification "La Querencia de la Tierra," meaning the loving respect which Mora County residents have towards the land and Earth.  But Browning wrote that the ordinance merely stated lofty ideals that have no force of law.  His ruling invalidated the entire ordinanance.