Non-profit

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Website:

celdf.org/

Location:

MERCERSBURG, PA

Tax ID:

25-1760934

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $1,073,938
Expenses: $831,058
Assets: $1,686,637

Type:

Public Interest Law Firm

Formation:

1995

Executive Director:

Stacey Schmader

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is a “decolonial” public-interest law firm focused on environmental issues, notably opposing fracking, injection wells, factory farming, pipelines, and water extraction. CELDF is best known for its support of “rights of Nature,” or the assertion of legal rights for natural entities such as lakes and forests.

In late 2021 and early 2022, CELDF lost nearly half of its employees, some of whom resigned due to alleged anti-transgender sentiment within the organization. CELDF had previously been accused of “transphobia” for its association with Deep Green Resistance, a radical-left environmentalist group that opposes the transgender movement.

Beliefs

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund supports a mixture of left-wing and far-left political goals, including higher minimum wage laws, enhanced government protections for the environment, and the “right to survive,” or the right of homeless people to occupy public land. One of the CELDF’s core principles is “rights of Nature,” which is the concept of giving legal rights to components of the non-human natural world. CELDF maintains that it does not seek legal personhood for nature or any of its components, but it does support the rights of parts of nature to “exist, flourish and naturally evolve.” The organization claims credit for Ecuador incorporating a form of rights of Nature into its constitution. [1] [2]

CELDF opposes “corporate rights,” including corporate personhood and the permission of unlimited spending on political campaigns by individuals and corporations enshrined in the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. [3]

Activities

Community Bill of Rights

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has helped draft a “community bill of rights” in more than 200 localities. The legislations generally make promises to protect the local environment. In 2019, CELDF helped pass the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, which granted “irrevocable rights for the Lake Erie Ecosystem to exist, flourish and naturally evolve,” prompting the Guardian to write an article entitled, “Should This Tree Have the Same Rights As You?” Agricultural company Drewes Farms filed a lawsuit against the legislation in Toledo, Ohio, and in 2020, a federal judge struck down the legislation. [4] [5] [6]

Natural Gas Exploration

CELDF opposes drilling for natural gas by hydraulic fracturing in all forms and has included bans on the practice in many community bills of rights. The organization claims that it helped push the first fracking ban in the United States, which was implemented in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in November 2010. It later assisted fracking bans in New York, Ohio, Maryland, and New Mexico. [7]

Invisible Hand

In 2021, CELDF co-financed Invisible Hand, a documentary narrated by left-progressive activist actor Mark Ruffalo about the “rights of Nature.” [8]

Accusations of Transphobia

In February 2022, multiple news outlets reported that over the prior six months, seven of the Community Environment Legal Defense Fund’s original 15 staff members had resigned from the organization. Three of the former employees said they resigned due to “transphobia” by other CELDF employees, and the organization’s unwillingness to punish wrongdoers. [9]

One former employee, who identifies as “agender,” claimed that other employees misgendered trans and nonbinary individuals and made comments about chemicals in the water supply turning people transgender. [10]

CELDF publicly denied the accusations. The group claims that over the last three years it had decentralized its leadership structure, and declared in a statement:

“We embarked on internal work related to a broad range of issues from gender identity to cisheteropatriarchy to micro-aggressive behavior to white supremacy to Indigenous rights and traditional ecological knowledge, as an effort to inform us as individuals, as an organization, and in our work with others. We adopted a conflict resolution policy based on restorative justice principles. We have employed a consultant to work through conflict issues within the organization who also subscribes to restorative justice practices. As an action of solidarity we have publicly posted a diversity statement. [11] [12]

Since February 2021, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has supported Project Thacker Pass, a campaign against the construction of a lithium mine in northern Nevada, which if completed would be the largest in the United States. CELDF has been criticized for allying in the Thacker Pass project with Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a “radical feminist” group that seeks to end the industrial revolution and civilization. DGR also considers itself at war with the patriarchy and opposes the trans rights movement since it supposedly undermines female solidarity. Its website states that “attempts to create more ‘choices’ within the sex-caste system only serve to reinforce the brutal realities of male power.” [13] [14]

DGR co-founder Derrick Jensen formerly sat on CELDF’s board. [15]

CELDF claims that its support for Project Thacker Pass does not reflect transphobia, and there is no apparent transphobia in the indigenous population which will be protected from the construction of the lithium mine. [16] [17]

References

  1. “Community Rights.” CELFD. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/community-rights/. ^
  2. “Champion the Rights of Nature.” CELDF. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/rights-of-nature/. ^
  3. “Corporate “Rights”.” CELDF. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/corporate-rights/. ^
  4. “Champion the Rights of Nature.” CELDF. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/rights-of-nature/. ^
  5. Holzman, Jael; Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  6. Pallotta, Nicole. “Federal Judge Strikes Down ‘Lake Erie Bill of Rights.’” Animal Legal Defense Fund. May 4, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://aldf.org/article/federal-judge-strikes-down-lake-erie-bill-of-rights/. ^
  7. “Fracking.” CELDF. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/fracking/. ^
  8. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  9. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  10. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  11. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  12. “CELDF’s Ongoing Commitment To Expanding Community Rights.” CELDF. February 14, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/2022/02/celdfs-ongoing-commitment-to-expanding-community-rights/. ^
  13. “What is Deep Green Resistance.” Deep Green Resistance. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://deepgreenresistance.org/about-us/. ^
  14. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  15. [1] Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  16. “CELDF’s Ongoing Commitment To Expanding Community Rights.” CELDF. February 14, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://celdf.org/2022/02/celdfs-ongoing-commitment-to-expanding-community-rights/. ^
  17. Holzman, Jael and Yachnin, Jennifer. “’Rights of nature’ law clinic faces transphobia allegation.” Politico. April 16, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/16/rights-of-nature-law-clinic-faces-transphobia-allegations-00024934. ^
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1995

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,073,938 $831,058 $1,686,637 $0 N $1,058,442 $7,244 $8,252 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990 $796,698 $795,754 $1,444,157 $399 N $778,937 $14,786 $2,978 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $799,514 $787,222 $1,443,354 $540 N $766,274 $31,772 $1,468 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $946,305 $763,322 $1,431,682 $1,160 N $880,239 $46,862 $19,204 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $820,333 $675,962 $1,398,237 $150,700 N $746,439 $67,874 $6,020 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $659,881 $613,385 $1,262,479 $154,492 N $617,990 $39,866 $2,025 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

    PO BOX 360
    MERCERSBURG, PA 17236-0360