Bay-Delta Tribunal Puts State & National Legal System on Trial

Tuesday, May 17, 2016



David Cobb, Move to Amend, (707) 362-0333, david [at]

Shannon Biggs, Movement Rights (415) 841-2998, shannon [at]

Linda Sheehan,  Earth Law Center (510) 219-7730, lsheehan [at]

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta (209) 479-2053, barbara [at]



California’s Proposed Twin Tunnels Case to be Heard

(Antioch, CA) – “What would the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem say?” is the question a panel of judges will consider when examining a case brought before them in the first-ever Bay Area Rights of Nature Tribunal based on an international rights of nature tribunal held in Paris during the climate talks last December. It’s a question gaining ground as dozens of U.S. and international communities and a handful of countries have begun recognizing rights and legal standing for ecosystems as a new framework for environmental protection. The tribunal will be held on April 30 at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center in Antioch, CA 9:30 AM-2 PM.

The case being brought before the tribunal address violations of nature’s, community, and human rights violations presented by Governor Brown’s water policies, and particularly his proposed Twin Tunnel plan, which would significantly reduce flows needed for Delta waterways and fish. The tribunal is being put on by the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance (BARONA) —a network of organizations seeking to explore how recognizing legal standing for ecosystems can put new governance tools in the hands of communities.

“The proposed project not only violate nature’s rights and human rights, but also illustrates that our laws legalize such harms,” adds Linda Sheehan of the Earth Law Center. “This Tribunal is about confronting a system of laws that places people and nature in harm’s way, and demonstrating a new way forward.”

Judges for the tribunal include: renowned eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, governmental liaison for the Winnemem Wintu tribe Gary Mulcahy, Movement Rights director, Shannon Biggs and others to be  confirmed. In addition to detailing rights violations, Tribunal witnesses and experts will also offer solutions to water flow and economic development challenges that protect, not injure, human and nature’s rights.

David Cobb, Outreach Director for the Move to Amend Coalition, will serve as an expert witness to provide testimony on the legal system, with specific focus on remedies are currently available.  "The US Constitution is a property rights document, not a Human Rights document. And notwithstanding the reality that we are literally dependent upon nature for our very survival, the concept of nature having legally protected rights to exist and flourish is not even contemplated," said Cobb, a lawyer and constitutional scholar. "So just like the abolitionists, women's suffrage advocates, and civil rights organizers we must confront that the core legal doctrines must be transformed if we are to create a just, peaceful, and sustainable world for ourselves and our children."

Rights of nature is a global movement that has been named one of the Top Ten Grassroots Movements Taking on the World by Shift Magazine. International Tribunals in Paris, Lima and Quito have recognized nature’s rights, as has the Pope and other leading figures. Mendocino County and Santa Monica have already recognized these rights in order to ban fracking and develop sustainability initiatives.