Groundswell PA: citizens for rights of nature

Community Bill of Rights and Natural Gas Fracking Ban


Groundswell is a citizen's group in State College, PA and Centre County. Over the course of six months, Groundswell pushed forward a Community Bill of Rights and Natural Gas Fracking Ban in the borough of State College. On November 8th, 2011, State College became the first place in the nation to pass Community Rights, Environmental Rights (of Rights of Nature) and ban fracking using a popular vote. In November 2012, Groundswell helped pass another Bill of Rights and Fracking Ban in Ferguson Township, PA. 


Groundswell PA was created by Founding Partner of designing the WE Braden Crooks. The organization was the first to pass rights of nature using a popular vote in the United States. It passed by 72%. Today, dozens of municipalities across the country have passed similar "Community Bill of Rights" legislation on the local level using a popular vote or by other means. The national leader of this effort is, who continue to argue for rights-based work internationally. 

Beyond just a fight against fracking, the Groundswell campaign focused its energy on the future most of us want: sustainable, thriving local economies. Fracking was just going to get in the way of that future. 

“We believe that communities have the right to take responsibility for their own future.”
— Groundswell



Like our national Bill of Rights, this new law serves an ambitious declaration to be lived up to. The interpretation and implementation of this new law, which was amended to our town charter (like a local constitution) will continue to unfold indefinitely into the future. All communities have the right to take responsibility for their own future. Creating healthy and robust local economies, ecologies and cultures is the goal for Groundswell. Community and Environmental Rights make this sustainable future legally possible. This is the beginning of substantive change for the better in America. This amendment is a way to reinvigorate democratic participation on the level that is most accessible to the people, and most directly concerns their everyday lives. With the Community Rights, we have empowered and challenged our local community to take responsibility for its destiny through the democratic process. We can only take on the mission of building a thriving, sustainable future by working together as a people. 

Moving Forward
This was the first ban on fracking using community rights in the United States by a popular vote. There have been two successful popular votes on Environmental Rights (or Rights of Nature) in the world. The first was in Ecuador in 2008 and the second was ours in State College on November 8th, 2011. Part of the success of this endeavor will be measured by making sure this is just the beginning. Creating cultural change from the local to the international levels is necessary and Groundswell is proud to be a small part of that history. 

Preemptive Law 
Preemptive law most often works agains the people and for corporate and industrial interests. Groundswell's popular vote in State College and other initiatives like it amount to a massive demonstration of collective civil disobedience against the unjust exploitation of preemptive law, and begin to lay the foundation for a more democratic and sustainable future. 

Environmental Rights
We enumerated the right to clean water, clean air and healthy ecosystems. We enshrined these rights for ourselves and our local ecologies, along with our right to protect and enforce them, declaring clean air and water as human rights as well as Rights of Nature. This allows us to address our local environment as something other than just property for the first time in western law. Our air, water and ecologies are more than something to be owned, and now we can begin to engage a new, more accurate and equitable interpretation. 

Fracking Ban
On the basis that it violated Environmental Rights, there was a ban on Natural Gas Hydrofracking within the Borough of State College. This protects the citizens from this dangerous process and is an excellent first example of the things we believe a community has the right to make choices about. Communities across PA and the nation are trying to protect themselves from the consequences they will bear from the rapid expansion of the fracking process, like water contamination, methane pollution and even earthquakes.