If approved by voters on November 3, 2015, the following section will be incorporated into the Borough of West Chester’s Home Rule Charter.
Section 904. COMMUNITY BILL of RIGHTS
A. Statements of Law – A Community Bill of Rights
(1) Governmental Legitimacy. All legitimate governments in the United States owe their existence to the people of the community that those governments serve, and governments exist to secure and protect the rights of the people and those communities. Any system of government that becomes destructive of those ends is not legitimate, lawful, or constitutional.
(2) Right of Local Community Self-Government. The people of West Chester Borough possess both a collective and individual right to self-government in their local community, a right to a system of government that embodies that right, and the right to a system of government that protects and secures their human, civil, and collective rights.
(3) Right to Assert the Right of Self-Government. The people of West Chester Borough possess the right to use their local government to make law, and the making and enforcement of law by the people through a municipal corporation, or any other institution, shall not eliminate, limit, or reduce their sovereign right of local community self-government.
(4) Rights of Ecosystems and Natural Communities. Ecosystems and natural communities within West Chester Borough possess the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.
(5) Right to Water. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to sustainably access, use, consume, and preserve water drawn from natural water cycles that provide water necessary to sustain life within the Borough.
(6) Right to Clean Air. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to breathe air untainted by toxins, carcinogens, particulates, and other substances known to cause harm to health.
(7) Right to Peaceful Enjoyment of Home. Residents of West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes, free from interference, intrusion, nuisances, or impediments to access and occupation.
(8) Right to a Sustainable Energy Future. All residents of West Chester Borough possess a right to a sustainable energy future, which includes, but is not limited to, the development, production, and use of energy from renewable fuel sources, and the right to be free from any form of non-sustainable energy extraction and distribution which threatens to cause harm to the people and natural environment of West Chester Borough.
(9) Rights as Self-Executing. All rights secured by this law are inherent, fundamental, and inalienable, and shall be self-executing and enforceable against both private and public actors. Further implementing legislation shall not be required for the Borough, the residents of West Chester Borough, or the ecosystems and natural communities protected by this law, to enforce all of the provisions of this law.
B. Statements of Law – Prohibitions Necessary to Secure the Bill of Rights
(1) It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to engage in the extraction of natural gas within West Chester Borough, with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of this Charter provision, provided that the extraction of gas from those existing wells does not involve any practice or process not previously used for the extraction of gas from those wells.
(2) It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to deposit, store, or transport waste water, “produced” water, “frack” water, brine, or other materials, chemicals, or by-products from the unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations, within, upon, or through, the land, air, or waters of West Chester Borough.
(3) It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to engage in the creation of fossil fuel, nuclear, or other non-sustainable energy production and delivery infrastructures, such as pipelines, processing facilities, compressors, or storage and transportation facilities, within West Chester Borough.
(4) It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to violate the rights recognized and secured by this law.
(5) No permit, license, privilege, charter, or other authorization issued to a corporation or business, by any state or federal entity, that would violate the prohibitions of this law or any rights secured by this law, shall be deemed valid within West Chester Borough.
(1) Any corporation, business or government that violates any provision of this law shall be guilty of an offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay the maximum fine allowable under State law for that violation. Each day or portion thereof, and violation of each section of this law, shall count as a separate violation.
(2) The Borough, or any resident of the Borough, may enforce the rights and prohibitions of this law through an action brought in any court possessing jurisdiction over activities occurring within the Borough. In such an action, the Borough or the resident shall be entitled to recover all costs of litigation, including, without limitation, expert and attorney’s fees.
(3) Ecosystems and natural communities within the Borough may enforce their rights, and this law’s prohibitions, through an action brought by the Borough or residents of the Borough, in any court possessing jurisdiction over activities occurring within the Borough, in the name of the ecosystem or natural community as the real party in interest. Damages shall be measured by the cost of restoring the ecosystem or natural community to its state before the injury, and shall be paid to the Borough to be used exclusively for the full and complete restoration of the ecosystem or natural community.
D. Enforcement – Corporate Powers
(1) Corporations and businesses that violate this law, or that seek to violate this law, shall not be deemed to be “persons” to the extent that such treatment would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this law, nor shall they possess any other legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, or duties that would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this amendment, the power to assert state or federal preemptive laws in an attempt to overturn this law, or the power to assert that the people of West Chester Borough lack the authority to adopt this law.
(2) All laws adopted by the legislature of the State of Pennsylvania, and rules adopted by any State agency, shall be the law of West Chester Borough only to the extent that they do not violate the rights or prohibitions of this law.
E. People’s Right of Self-Government
Use of the courts or the Pennsylvania legislature in attempts to overturn the provisions of this amendment shall require community meetings focused on changes to local governance that would secure the people’s right of local community self-government.
F. State and Federal Constitutional Changes
Through the adoption of this amendment, the people of West Chester Borough call for amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the federal Constitution to recognize a right of local community self-government free from governmental preemption and nullification by corporate “rights.”
The provisions of this amendment are severable. If any court decides that any section, clause, sentence, part, or provision of this amendment is illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect, impair, or invalidate any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions of the amendment. This amendment would have been enacted without the invalid sections.
All inconsistent provisions of prior laws adopted by the Borough are hereby repealed, but only to the extent necessary to remedy the inconsistency.