Mora: Lawyers Lining Up to Help by Las Vegas Optic, May 12, 2013
Mora County officials say attorneys from around the country are lining up to help them after the commission adopted a controversial community rights ordinance that bans oil and gas extraction. The ordinance is controversial because it seeks to restrict the rights that courts have said corporations enjoy. Mora County is believed to be the first county in the nation to adopt such an ordinance. Mora County issued a news release on Thursday announcing that lawyers practicing in five states signed onto a letter pledging to “provide any support that we can if the ordinance is challenged by those interests that may be affected by it.” According to the release, the attorneys are from Ohio, Washington, Hawaii, New Hampshire and New Mexico. “In that letter, those attorneys declared that ‘Mora County’s recognition of, and assertion of, the right to self-government on behalf of the people of Mora County is the thread that combines all of the communities in which we work. Thus, when one government advances that work, everyone moves closer to securing that right at every level of government,’” the release states.
The release also quotes Ohio lawyer Sean Kelly as saying that “a growing group of lawyers from across the country are now engaged in defending municipal governments and communities who believe that the current balance of power — which gives oil and gas extraction corporations greater rights than the people who life in communities where they do business — needs to change.”
Critics of community rights ordinances like the one adopted by the Mora County Commission, including Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz and Las Vegas City Attorney Dave Romero, have said that such ordinances are unconstitutional and would likely be overturned by the courts. The ordinance is being advocated by the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has also pledged to help Mora County if it is sued. Voting for it were Commissioners John P. Olivas and Alfonso J. Griego. Commissioner Paula Garcia voted against it, saying that while she agrees that the county needs to protect its water and land, the ordinance approved will likely result in litigation for the county and most likely won’t be upheld by the courts. [Emphasis added]