Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) describes itself as "a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, the local economy, and quality of life. [Their] mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature."[1] Champion of democracy Thomas Linzey is the Founder and Executive Director.


CELDF was established in 1995 and currently coins itself "the principal advisor to community groups and municipal governments struggling to transition from merely regulating corporate harms to stopping those harms by asserting local, democratic control directly over corporations." CELDF has lead many important battles for small communities that were threatened by big, environmental-plundering corporations.

CELDF has assisted over 110 municipalities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, and Virginia in their grassroots legal battles, addressing and attempting to halt activities such as corporate water withdrawals, longwall coal mining, factory farming, the land application of sewage sludge, and uranium mining.[2]


CELDF prides itself on the fact that regulatory agencies exist right now not to stop the plundering of the environment and ecosystem, but rather, controls how much they are allowed to plunder it and to what extent. They believe that the only way to create a true environmental movement is to change the way land and the environment at-large is treated. They believe that land, like people, cannot be treated as "property," but rather, should be treated as deserving of distinct rights, as part of the commons. The only way to tackle this, they believe, is to mandate and an to "environment-as-property" through city/local constitutions and ordinances.

Democracy School

CELDF is most famous for its Democracy Schools, which focus on teaching community members how to use the rule of law as a means of community and democratic empowerment and how to organize as a collective unit to defeat the corporate takeover of the environment and ecosystems. "Lectures cover the history of people's movements and corporate power."[3]

Board of Directors[4]

  • Tammy Belinsky, Esq., Virginia - Attorney, The Environmental Law Group, PLLC
  • Fred Walls, Pennsylvania - Retired Dairy Farmer - Former Board Member of Friends and Residents of St. Thomas Township
  • Edward Wells, Pennsylvania - Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies, Wilson College
  • Ryan Talbott, Pennsylvania - Attorney, Allegheny Defense Project

Board of Advisors



  1. [1], "About Us." Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
  2. [2], "About Us." Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
  3. [3], "What is Democracy School?" Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
  4. Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Board, organizational web page, accessed October 7 2017.

External Resources