Corporations have long been able to use regulatory instruments and the courts to override community interests to gain access to resources or to site noxious land uses. Now communities are fighting back.
"As bottled water has become a 'must have' commodity generating nearly $10 billion a year in consumer spending, corporations have descended on communities like Barnstead (N.H.)and set up pumping operations. They extract hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day, bottle it, and ship it out for profit. Taking that much water raises the specter of lowered water tables and dry wells, infiltration of pollutants or saltwater, and damage to wetlands. The townspeople lose control of one of the necessities of life.
Barnstead residents watched as nearby Barrington and Nottingham fought to block multinational corporation USA Springs from taking their water. They saw those communities work through the state regulatory system and, after years of labor and hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, find themselves without a remedy. Corporations, they were told, have constitutional rights that limit what regulators can do with zoning or other land-use controls.
[Such] one-at-a-time regulatory battles over a single project-whether sludge dumping, a Wal-Mart, or a nuclear power plant-are called 'site fights.' With the deck stacked against local control, what are citizens to do to step outside the regulatory game and take back power?"