In a landmark decision, a Pennsylvania judge has ruled that corporations are not “persons” under the Pennsylvania Constitution, and that corporations cannot elevate their “private rights” above the rights of people
If you’re not familiar with the issue of corporations being considered as persons, this legal conundrum has been in place since 1886 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Southern Pacific Railroad was a “person” and a “citizen” of the United States under the Fourteenth Amendment. This became known as the doctrine of “corporate personhood.”
Since that time, corporations have used this to strike out and strike down a wide range of state regulations in their favor. Loudly if inaccurately touted by Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during his failed campaign, corporations have boldly moved to have their “rights as citizens” be held larger than many environmental issues, often to the detriment of surrounding communities, particularly in regards to fracking.
Enter the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit law firm that provides legal counsel to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, the local economy, and quality of life. Through their efforts, they have successfully helped over 100 communities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, and Virginia to draft and adopt new laws addressing such activities as corporate water withdrawals, longwall coal mining, factory farming, the land application of sewage sludge, and uranium mining.
It’s through a partnership with the CELDF that the long-held doctrine of corporate personhood was struck down in Pennsylvania and that corporations cannot “elevate their “private rights” above the rights of people.” Definitely a big step in the right direction for communities and the environment.