Gas Drilling and Fracking

In November 2010, CELDF worked with the City of Pittsburgh to become the first community in the nation to ban hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." By a unanimous vote, the city council adopted the CELDF-drafted Community Bill of Rights ordinance banning shale gas drilling and fracking, and establishing community and nature's rights.

Our work is growing as communities across the country are being targeted by gas corporations. We’ve now organized in other communities in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Ohio, and New Mexico which have adopted CELDF-drafted ordinances banning fracking.

Fracking brings significant impacts, including millions of gallons of toxic wastewater. Drilling corporations combine fresh water and sand with chemicals to fracture the underground rock to release the gas, producing the wastewater. In addition, despite many who tout natural gas as a “cleaner” fuel than coal or oil, recent studies have found that fracking is a major global warming contributor.

The "rights-based" ordinances that Pittsburgh and other communities have put in place to ban fracking, establish Community Bills of Rights for those municipalities. These Bills of Rights include a right to water, the right to a sustainable energy future, and the rights of nature. Further, they establish the community’s right to decide what happens in the city, rather than the gas corporations which seek to drill there.

Visit our Ordinance Resource Center to see examples of these ordinances. For more information or to learn how to become engaged in this organizing, contact us at


Drilling for natural gas occurs in many areas of the country where fossil methane is trapped underground. The Legal Defense Fund first explored rights-based organizing around gas drilling with communities in southern Colorado. There, opposition to the corporate extraction of this fossil fuel has been strong and steady, but the challenge remains: putting the communities affected by the inevitable accompanying destruction in charge of decisions about whether or not gas drilling will be allowed.

In Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland, corporate plans to extract massive amounts of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation have alarmed communities throughout the region.  "Land men" began quietly persuading thousands of landowners to sign leases to dirty fuel extractors several years ago. Today, with prices for gas booming, corporations re-writing regulatory law, and a full-court press of industry PR blanketing the airwaves and print media, communities and lease-holders alike are reeling as they learn from non-industry sources the imminent danger to their health, water supplies, soil, and property values that the fracking technique for gas extraction poses.

The list of citizens groups organizing in opposition to the transformation of their communities into resource colonies of the energy corporations keeps growing. Not surprisingly, citizens are being told by their local government officers, municipal solicitors, state representatives and regulatory agency personnel that "there's nothing we can do for you; our hands are tied." They suggest that people beg for strict enforcement of existing laws, the imposition of "severance taxes" so that a small fraction of profits enters public coffers, as well as a few more agency personnel, to complete the cover-story that government is doing "everything it can" to protect people and the environment. But the "solutions" offered by traditional "environmental" organizations, government officials and state regulatory agencies refuse to consider the one safe option: the end of corporate-state interference with the inalienable right of the people to protect their environment, health, safety, welfare and quality of life.

To explore rights-based organizing in opposition to the fracking of your community, contact us at

To learn more about our pipeline work, go here:


Illustration courtesy Marcellus Outreach Butller, artist anonymous