Ohio Community Rights Movement

Join this growing peoples’ movement for the Ohio that residents envision for future generations.

Middle aged white man with brown receding hair with wire rimmed glasses looking to the right with a gray suitcoat and purple shirt his mouth open as if talking

President Trump says – and the Supreme Court affirms – that we are “a nation of laws,” but no one questions “who” is making those laws.  It takes a people’s movement to overturn unjust law and advance rights. And Ohioans are launching just that: a Community Rights movement to protect and enforce rights to clean air, water, and local community self-government.

It is a movement born out of necessity in this state. The oil and gas industry owns state legislators, and local government officials carry out state directives under threat of being sued and facing bankruptcy. In Pennsylvania, even the judiciary is punishing lawyers defending communities from fracking harms.

As fracking, pipelines, compressor stations, and wastewater injection wells inundate communities, it’s clear to residents they will find no remedy in the EPA, ODNR, and certainly not in their legislators.

Thus, they are turning to themselves and each other. They are building a rights-based movement to end their communities becoming sacrifice zones, and to build what they envision for their communities: clean air and water, a healthy environment, strong local economies, and a future for their children.

Community Rights Laws

For five years, Ohio residents – finding no remedy in the current system – have requested help to draft local Community Rights laws and charters to stop fracking activities. These laws establish rights to clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government.  They ban fracking activities as a violation of those rights.

Nearly a half dozen communities have adopted rights-based ordinances and Home Rule charter amendments, including Broadview Heights, Athens, Waterville, and Oberlin. Since then, Ohio communities have drafted over thirty more Community Rights laws.

The people of Ohio are building a movement. And the growing numbers of obstacles they face are only accelerating its growth.

Overturning HB 463

In 2016, the oil and gas industry had enough of Community Rights. Lobbyists whispered in state legislators’ ears, and HB 463 was quietly adopted a year ago. HB 463 was a foreclosure bill. However, taking direct aim at Community Rights initiatives, legislators added a section granting the Ohio Secretary of State and the non-elected county Boards of Elections (BOEs) authority to strip duly qualified citizens initiatives off of the ballot based on their subject matter. This one act disregarded over a hundred years of precedent.

Industry and their representatives in the legislature thought this would chill Community Rights in Ohio. They thought wrong.  Communities advanced rights-based citizen initiatives anyway. And when BOEs and industry allies tried to stop them, the people advancing Community Rights struck back, in county and appellate courts and multiple Ohio Supreme Court cases.

It was the unrelenting communities who refused to sacrifice their rights in every one of these cases that led – finally – to the partial overturning of HB 463. In October, the argument for rights that Ohioans are advancing through the Community Rights movement was finally heard by the Ohio Supreme Court. The case was State ex rel. Espen v. Wood Cty. Bd. of Elections, and the people’s initiated law went to the ballot.

This was a stunning victory. The people of Ohio succeeded in overturning an unjust law adopted by legislators. It wouldn’t have happened without the dogged determination of Athens and Medina County residents, and Youngstown and Bowling Green residents, with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – a public interest law firm – at their side.

But that is what movements require: grit, persistence, and time.

What’s Next

Today, Columbus residents are gathering signatures for a city ordinance protecting their water and banning radioactive drill cuttings disposal within the city. The cuttings are a byproduct of fracking.

Youngstown residents are gathering signatures for a city charter amendment protecting their water and banning fracking.

Toledo residents are gathering signatures for a city charter amendment to protect the rights of Lake Erie to exist and flourish.

Counties are exploring their next steps to advance Community Rights charters and protect themselves from fracking activities.

And across the state, Ohioans have come together to propose two state constitutional amendments codifying and protecting rights.

Yes, we are a nation of laws – laws made by we, the people.Ohioans are not giving up their right to initiative. Instead, they are building a movement. We are proud to stand with them.

Thomas Linzey is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has assisted the people of over two hundred municipalities in the United States to advance rights for those communities over the claimed “rights” of energy, agribusiness, and other corporations.

Tish O’Dell is the Ohio Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and is available to answer questions and make presentations to any community in Ohio curious about implementing community rights. tish@celdf.org

Middle aged white man with some dark and some gray hair speaking while gesturing to the right wearing a suit, people listening to him

Gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich addressed the first town hall forum of the Progressive Democrats of America Central Ohio chapter on February 5. Kucinich emphasized that he is for universal health care and when in Congress had written HR 676 a Health Care for All bill, co-sponsored by Representative John Conyers. While pitching universal health care, he also put in a plug for veganism, saying that his switch to a vegan diet in 1995 allowed him to get off of six of seven pharmaceutical medications. He told the crowd that he fights to keep community hospitals open but he warned them that closing hospitals is often a tactic to break health care unions.

Kucinich explained that his approach to politics is based on the fact that “I’m an activist at heart.” He claimed that his ultimate agenda is to “empower the people of this state to make their own decisions.” He supports the Community Bill of Rights.

The biggest laugh line of the night was when he was asked his position on gerrymandering. He pronounced: “I know about gerrymandering. I lost my seat not to nasty Republicans, but from nasty Democrats.” Kucinich’s House district was re-shaped into the infamous “snake on the lake” district that favored Democrat Marcy Kaptur in Toledo.

When asked why the Dems wanted to get rid of him, his answer produced the loudest applause of the night. He said “I raised hell against the wars. That’s why they wanted to get rid of me.” He argued that his campaign offers a chance for progressive activists to “Seize this moment and transform state government.”

He ended with a comment on the opioid epidemic in Ohio: “You don’t help addicts by sending them to jail or prison.”

Video from event


URGENT Alert  Read more here


Court Orders Nonprofit Law Firm to Pay $52,000 to Oil and Gas Company for Defending Local Fracking Waste Ban

In early January, a federal judge ordered the nonprofit law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pay $52,000 to an oil and gas exploration company for defending a rural Pennsylvania township’s ban on underground injections of frack waste.

This sanction comes at the request of Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil &Gas Association, but is part of a growing trend to prevent municipalities across the nation from pushing back against state and federal attempts to overrule them. Read More Here


Ohio Community Rights Network fights for local government rights

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Years before cleveland.com conceived its Western Reserve project to push for fair representation in northern Ohio, a grassroots group drafted its own declaration of self-governance to launch a fight for local control.  Read full story HERE

Press Release: “Free and Fair Elections” Initiative Would Ban Corporate Dollars in Local Elections

Youngstown residents propose law to prohibit outside campaign spending  “It’s time to take back our democracy” READ HERE

Press Release: Ohio Communities Assert Right to Propose Laws Protecting Themselves from Fracking

Community rights movement grows statewide, despite corporate state efforts to block it  READ HERE



Fundraising with GoGetFunding

Find Your County


Click a county to see contact information for that chapter. Counties in yellow do not have an OHCRN chapter yet; please contact us to discuss the possibility of starting a chapter in your community!


Franklin Athens Marion Greene Richland Wood Portage Stark Guernsey Lorain Trumbull Medina Williams Cuyahoga Mahoning Meigs Fulton Lucas Defiance


Join our mailing list to receive regular news and updates.


Your donation allows us to do this important work for the people of Ohio.