The Fracking Debate: How Communities Are Trying to Control Drilling

by Sara Dorn GATES MILLS, Ohio — Gates Mills residents are joining what’s become a nationwide movement and petitioning to have a bill of rights placed on the November ballot that would attempt to ban more oil and gas wells.  The state has exclusive rights to regulate oil and gas drilling, so Mayor Shawn Riley believes local legislation — like a bill of rights — would have little to no effect. Instead, Riley wants property owners to pool their land, decide if and where hydraulic fracturing will be located in the village, and split the royalties. The Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills worries Riley’s initiative sets the table for oil and gas companies. Here’s how other communities are trying to control drilling in their towns: Broadview Heights: The city is facing a lawsuit from Bass Energy Co. Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy after voters passed a bill of rights in November 2012 banning oil and gas drilling there. In May 2013, two residents sued Bass as it made plans to drill near their street. The city of Broadview Heights backed the residents, while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued permits to the company anyway. The companies sued the city in June and said the Community Bill of Rights denies them use of property and violates the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions. Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods (MADION), the organization that initiated the Broadview Heights bill of rights, filed a motion in July to intervene in the case. MADION’s leader, Tish O’Dell, is also the Ohio organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which is helping the Gates Mills residents...

Activists Want Columbus to Have Environmental ‘Bill of Rights’

by Laura Arenschield No one is fracking in Columbus, and no one is injecting fracking wastewater into the ground here. But some grass-roots environmental activists are taking no chances. A group is collecting signatures to get a Community Bill of Rights on the Columbus ballot in May. If it passes, the bill would change Columbus’ city charter to block activities that could pollute drinking water and air. It’s a legal tactic that some communities across the nation have used to block fracking and other work that affects the environment. In Ohio, similar bills have passed in Broadview Heights and Oberlin and failed three times in Youngstown. Kent voters will decide the fate of one in November, and Athens activists are trying to get one on the ballot in May. Carolyn Harding, the organizer behind the Columbus Bill of Rights, said she’s primarily concerned about injection wells. To pull oil and natural gas from shale, companies drill vertically and then turn sideways into the rock. Then they blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the shafts to free trapped oil and gas in the process called fracking. During the process, fluids bubble back up to the surface with the gas. Fracking chemicals include ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, considered a possible carcinogen. The waste that bubbles up also includes radioactive material. According to the government, at least 2 billion gallons of wastewater are injected every day into wells throughout the country. About 200 injection wells operate in Ohio, including one in Delaware County, seven in Pickaway County and more...

November Ballots in Ohio to Include Record Number of Initiatives to Ban Fracking

On Election Day, four Ohio cities will vote on ballot initiatives that would empower their citizens to ban fracking activities within their city limits: Kent, Youngstown, Gates Mills and Athens. Drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), these Community Bill of Rights initiatives would codify community rights to self-governance and a healthy environment. Voters in Yellow Springs, Mansfield, Oberlin, and Broadview Heights passed similar city ordinances in the last two years. “For too long, the State of Ohio and the oil and gas industry have worked hand-in-hand to strip communities of their right to protect themselves and the environment,” said Tish O’Dell, CELDF Ohio organizer. Ohio communities are no longer willing to accept a legal system which forces fracking into communities.” Read the rest...

Rallying For Local Fracking Regulations

by Matthew Merchant With signs raised high and voices echoing, anti-fracking demonstrators rallied and marched from the streets of downtown Kent to Kent State’s campus Saturday to raise awareness for Issue 21, a proposed anti-fracking law on the Nov. 4 ballot. As part of the Global Frackdown, an international day of advocacy aimed at raising awareness of local fracking operations of oil and gas companies, the Kent Environmental Rights Group rallied, marched and painted the rock on front campus. Other events in Ohio included rallies locally in Lakewood and Ashtabula county, and globally in London, Paris, Madrid and other major cities. “How much longer are you, the resident of Kent, willing to wait? How much environmental harm and destruction of the community you love are you willing to sit back and watch and allow?” said Tish O’Dell, the Ohio community organizer for the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “Is this easy? No, and you’re finding that out. Will there be a price to pay for saving the world, for saving Kent? Absolutely.” CELDF has been supporting KERG since April when the local advocacy group was formed. KERG recently proposed an amendment to the City of Kent Charter that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within city limits. The proposed amendment is on the Nov. 4 ballot as Issue 21. “(KERG) is as grassroots as it gets,” said Lee Brooker, a member of the group. “The industry is obviously well-monied, and we really need donations.” The protest march and rally, held in the gazebo area in Kent next to the Pufferbelly restaurant, was intended both to raise awareness for...

Forging a ‘Different Path,’ Communities Take Fracking Fight to the Ballot

by Andrea Germanos Environmental groups and concerned community members have taken to the streets in their fight to stop fracking—an extraction process they say threatens environmental and public health. But the issue has made its way to the ballot as well; in communities in California, Ohio and Texas, voters have a chance to enact fracking bans on November 4. “People are waking up to the risks,” Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the bill of rights committee in Youngstown, Ohio and member of Frackfree Mahoning Valley, told Common Dreams. If enacted, the Community Bill of Rights, Issue 4 on Youngstown’s ballot, would prohibit unconventional oil and gas extraction methods including fracking. Hundreds of small earthquakes in the state have been linked to fracking—so it may be no surprise that Youngstown is just one of a handful of communities in Ohio with fracking bans on the ballot this November. Athens, Gates Mills and Kent join Youngstown with similar ballot measures. That makes a record number of municipalities in Ohio trying to enact Community Bills of Rights initiatives, says the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which drafted the measures. “For too long, the State of Ohio and the oil and gas industry have worked hand-in-hand to strip communities of their right to protect themselves and the environment. Ohio communities are no longer willing to accept a legal system which forces fracking into communities,” Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Ohio Community Organizer, said in a press statement.   Read the rest...