Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (Mercersburg, PA)


  • Name:Ms. Mari Margil
  • Title:Associate Director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
  • Address:PO Box 360
    Mercersburg, PA 17236
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:717-498-0054

Organization Web

User Email


Click map for a full size active view.


  • Mission:
  • Our mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

  • Overview:
  • CELDF is a public interest law firm, bringing grassroots organizing and community education together with our legal services to help communities protect the environment. Since 1995, we have assisted the first communities in the U.S. to prohibit factory farming, sewage sludging and other harms.

    Over the past several years, as the shale gas industry has grown rapidly across the country, our work has increasingly focused on protecting communities from unsustainable energy development such as fracking, frack wastewater injection wells and liquid natural gas (LNG) pipelines. We are requesting support for our work to protect communities and the environment under our Project on Shale Gas Drilling and Fracking.


    Fracking, in which corporations inject massive amounts of fresh water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture shale rock and release natural gas, brings significant harms. Millions of gallons of toxic wastewater are produced and then disposed of through underground injection wells, threatening aquifers. Injection wells have been tied to earthquakes in Colorado, Ohio and other states. Fracking is also a major global warming contributor.

    Since 2010, our work to protect communities from fracking has expanded to include Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Maryland, New York and other states where the oil and gas industry is siting fracking projects.

    Our partner communities have adopted CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights ordinances protecting ecosystems by prohibiting fracking activities. In each of these communities, the local prohibitions establish the rights of residents to clean air, water and a healthy environment, and ban the fracking project as a violation of those rights. Over the past year, our work has expanded to other states as well, including Oregon, California and Arizona.


    Today, we have assisted nearly 200 communities to protect against environmental harms. Through this work, we are assisting communities to secure environmental rights of communities and nature, and lay the groundwork for establishing sustainable energy and other systems. Our three core strategies are grassroots organizing, public interest law and education.

    --Grassroots Organizing

    Through grassroots organizing, we partner with residents, groups and local governments to engage communities, build alliances, develop strategies and implement on-the-ground campaigns to protect the environment. Our organizing has led to the protection of thousands of people, as well as ecosystems across the country. In each community, we meet with residents and local governments requesting our assistance to determine best strategies to stop harms. We assist them to build networks of support and provide guidance for on-the-ground campaigns to advance environmental protections.

    --Public Interest Law

    We support our grassroots organizing through our public interest law services – free legal services for communities, grassroots groups and local governments seeking to protect the environment. This includes drafting proposed laws, and legal research and counsel. In each community, we work with our partner groups to draft environmental rights laws. We provide legal research for those communities seeking to advance those rights through initiative or through their municipal government. And we provide legal counsel, for example in Ohio and Colorado, where the oil and gas industry is challenging the people’s right to clean air and water.


    Our third core strategy is education, which is central to our organizing and outreach. We conduct education workshops and presentations on how environmental rights to clean air and water belong to all people, and what communities facing fracking can do to secure and protect those rights. We also train people in their communities to engage in outreach and education on environmental rights and protection of local ecosystems, building their capacity to advance this work in their communities and beyond.

    In addition, we provide printed and on-line materials to help educate communities on environmental rights. This spring we are publishing our second edition of Common Sense, a 20-page organizing “primer” that will be distributed to activists and communities across the U.S. on the barriers we face when we seek to protect the environment, and how we are partnering communities to overcome them.

  • History:
  • CELDF was founded in 1995. Our work began in rural Pennsylvania, where we assisted the first communities in the country to prohibit factory farming. Decimating rural communities, factory farming forces small, family farms out of business, undermining local economies. It also threatens local ecosystems with mass quantities of manure, contaminating air and water. The manure poisons clean air with dangerous levels of ammonia; growing evidence links ammonia from factory farms to local health problems. As well, manure poisons waterways as it runs off fields, such as in Fulton County, PA, where in 2010 tens of thousands of gallons of liquid manure spilled into Licking Creek and the Potomac River, killing aquatic life.

    As our work expanded to help communities prohibit factory farming, we began assisting the first communities in the country to prohibit sewage sludging. Sludging involves the land application of solid sewage waste, which can contain up to 60,000 contaminants – including PCBs, pesticides, dioxins, heavy metals, bacteria, asbestos, petroleum products and industrial solvents. Despite the contents, it is offered as free fertilizer to farmers, who spread it on cropland. Illness and even death have been reported in association with the spreading of sludge in rural communities. More than 80 Pennsylvania communities worked with CELDF to prohibit the application of sewage sludge to farm fields.

    Our work has spread to New England, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Ohio and other states, helping communities protect the natural environment from harm. Over the past several years, as the shale gas industry has grown rapidly across the country, our work has increasingly focused on protecting communities from unsustainable energy development such as fracking, frack wastewater injection wells and LNG pipelines.

    The oil and gas industry’s assault on communities, forcing fracking in over community opposition, has accelerated our environmental rights work. In 2010, the City of Pittsburgh adopted the first-in-the-nation Community Bill of Rights banning fracking. The CELDF-drafted ordinance established residents’ rights to clean air, water and a healthy environment. Fracking is banned as a violation of those rights.

    Since then, we have partnered with communities in Ohio, New York, Maryland, Colorado and other states that have adopted and are advancing Community Bills of Rights to prohibit fracking and related activities. Today, we are working with dozens of communities in states across the U.S. to protect against fracking activities and secure environmental rights.

    Further, with our partner communities, we are now taking the next step to advance environmental rights to the state level. Through our Community Rights Networks, which we helped launch in seven states, we are developing state legislation and constitutional amendments to establish environmental rights, such that those rights are codified and protected for all communities.

  • Year established:1995
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:4
  • Advisory board size:15
  • Staff size:10


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(1)
  • Tax ID:25-1760934

IRS Business Master File Information

  • EIN:251760934
  • Sort (Secondary) Name:
  • Care Of Name:
  • Organization Address:PO BOX 360
  • Organization City:MERCERSBURG
  • Organization State:PA
  • Organization Zip:17236-0360
  • Group Exemption Number:0000
  • Subsection Code:03
  • Classification Code(s):1
  • Subsection/Classification Desc.:Charitable Organization
  • Affiliation Code:3
  • Ruling Date:July, 1995
  • Deductibility Code:1
  • Foundation Code:15
  • Foundation Code Desc.:Organization which receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)
  • Activity Code(s):994, 460, 461
  • Activity Code Desc.(s):Described in section 170(b)1)(a)(vi) of the Code, Public interest litigation activities, Other litigation or support of litigation
  • Organization Code:1 (Corporation)
  • Exempt Org. Status Code:01 (Unconditional Exemption)
  • Tax Period:December, 2016
  • Filing Requirement Category:01 (990 (all other) or 990EZ return)
  • Accounting Period:December
  • NTEE Code:I83
  • Asset Amount:$1,686,637
  • Asset Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • Income Amount:$1,073,938
  • Income Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • 990 Revenue Amount:$1,073,938
  • Last Updated:2/25/2018 7:18:33 pm

This information is directly from the IRS Exempt Organization Business Master File at Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract. This information is not under the control of the Common Grant Application and is collected and compiled and can only be changed by the IRS.