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... read 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... read more

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... read more

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... read more

Fracking Bans Pass in Denton, Texas, Two California Counties and One Ohio Town

With a record number of fracking issues on local ballots in California, Texas and Ohio, the outcome was decidedly mixed. Of the eight measures—three in California, four in Ohio and one in Texas—four passed and four failed. The biggest victory came in Denton in north Texas, located atop the lucrative Barnett shale play. After citizens demanded action from city council on a fracking ban and council punted last July, the issue went to the ballot where it passed last night. “As I have stated numerous times, the democratic process is alive and well in Denton,” said Denton mayor Chris Watts. “Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits. The city council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged.” Denton became the first city in Texas—a state where fracking has become big business—to pass such a ban, despite threats from the oil and gas industry to sue to overturn it. And it passed overwhelmingly, 59-41 percent, despite heavy spending by the industry.   Read the rest... read more

Disagreement On Legal Authority Complicates Local Fracking Bans

By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Last week in eastern Ohio, where natural gas production in the Utica Shale has been booming, voters in three towns rejected ballot proposals to ban hydraulic fracturing. While Athens overwhelmingly passed a fracking ban, Gates Mills, Kent and Youngstown voted down their measures. The ballot issues highlight the disparity in responses among local officials who are befuddled by the complicated legal baggage of prohibiting a practice that some say is solely regulated at a state level. Bans could legally embroil areas where drilling companies operate, especially with the Ohio Supreme Court soon to rule on the ability of local authorities to regulate fracking. Local authority to regulate fracking is a central issue in the case that the Ohio Supreme Court is reviewing: Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy. In 2011, a state court backed the town’s right to zone and issue permits to the oil and gas drilling company. An appellate court in February sided with the company. Oral arguments were heard by the state Supreme Court earlier this year. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association is closely watching for a decision, said spokeswoman Penny Siepel. “Once that court case is decided, I think it will probably help … reaffirm that the state ultimately has control over the oil and gas industry,” Ms. Seipel said. Shawn Bennett, senior vice president of the industry group, said his member companies answer solely to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “These bans are, and will remain, without any teeth,” Mr. Bennett said. “When (companies) submit their permit, that permit will go to the division and the division... read more

Fracking Corporations Played the Democracy Game – Two Communities Set New Rules this Election

Around the country, communities fighting fracking took their cause to the ballot box in the 2014 cycle — or tried to. But even before voters got a chance to voice their values some were preempted by nefariously oily means.  In Butte County, CA the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) —California’s biggest lobby — found a “formatting error” on residents’ petition (meaning: a few words that should have been in bold face type on the petition). Although Frack-Free Butte County won in court, their ordinance was delayed beyond the election season. For some places, the corporate dollars were too big to beat.  In Santa Barbara California, Chevron, ExxonMobil and other corporate oil interests donated $7 million to drown local efforts, confuse voters and sink endorsements of the defeated Measure P. They were not alone. As Common Cause has reported, Big Oil spent $267 million in the last 15 years on California lobbying and political contributions in Sacramento, the lion’s share of which coincides with fracking’s ugly rise as the short-term future of the fossil fuel industry.  Others made it on to the ballot, only to find millions of dollars being poured into their local elections by Big Oil and Gas lobbies. In Colorado, statehouse officials denied democracy by refusing to let communities vote on fracking. In August, Colorado’s Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper convinced U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) to pull his support for the citizen initiative process that would have enabled two anti-fracking initiatives on the ballot and ammended the state constitution to give more control over drilling and fracking to local communities. And in the most talked about local victory of the elections, residents of... read more

Ohio Town, Seeking To Limit Drilling, Is Latest At Odds With State

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is siding with two oil and gas companies in a court case challenging a Cleveland suburb’s ban on oil and gas drilling within city limits. The November 12 motion is the latest step in a series of cases where different branches and levels of Ohio government have faced off against each other. At issue is the extent to which each can limit how and where drilling and related activities take place. The municipality involved in the case, Broadview Heights, is among a handful of Ohio cities that oppose additional oil and gas activities within their boundaries. Earlier this month, Athens became the latest Ohio city to ban new drilling within city limits. ODNR and the gas companies claim local governments have no authority to limit any activities relating to oil and gas. Cities say the statute on which their opponents rely conflicts with the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to rule any day now in a similar dispute involving the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls. That case involves cities’ zoning authority over drilling.   Read the rest... read more

Broadview Heights Activists Sue Ohio Gov. John Kasich And State Over Gas, Oil wells

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – A local activist group that opposes oil and gas wells in residential neighborhoods has sued the state of Ohio and Gov. John Kasich in an attempt to stop drilling here. Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhood, based in Broadview Heights, says the city’s Community Bill of Rights – which voters approved in 2012 and which bans future wells – supersedes a state law that allows drilling. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, says the U.S. and Ohio constitutions guarantee the rights of citizens to govern themselves locally and protect their communities – in this case, from detrimental effects of oil and gas wells. The lawsuit seeks class-action status, which would allow the activists to represent all Broadview Heights residents. It says the group has legal standing to sue because members started the campaign for the Community Bill of Rights and worked hard to pass it on the ballot. Read the rest... read more

Ohio Regulators Promoting Fracking Not Surprising As Seen From Broadview Heights

I know many citizens of Ohio are shocked by the recent revelation based on a public records request that a state-appointed regulatory agency is actually promoting drilling, and working to “convince” the public that it is safe. But I’m not. Call it “lessons learned on the front lines.” Based on personal experience with drilling in my hometown, I was not surprised when I read this information on the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s recently exposed, 10-page memo listing allies, threats, and strategies to convince us that drilling in state parks was a good idea. I was not surprised to read notes that revealed the governor’s office, Halliburton, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, local chambers of commerce and media outlets like the Youngstown Vindicator are “allies” and environmental groups are considered “threats.” With 90 wells in a 13-square-mile residential community, residents in my hometown of Broadview Heights learned several years ago that the ODNR was not on our side. We learned that our local officials had their authority stripped from them by a legislature that was bought and paid for with industry lobby money, according to a Common Cause report. We learned that our local safety officials (fire and police) were not notified as to when a well would be fracked or what chemicals would be used. We learned that citizens and even the city, none of whom wanted to sign a lease and were forcibly “pooled” into a drilling unit against their will and wanted to appeal, had to do so before an ODNR panel that was stacked in favor of the industry. So no, this revelation about our state regulatory agency did not have... read more

Lowe-Volk Nature Center

Community Rights in Crawford County, OH

What’s Happening?

CELDF’s Tish O’Dell is speaking in Crawford County on the growing Community Rights Movement in Ohio. Fracking and its infrastructure are accelerating across the state, driven by the oil and gas industry, and Ohio communities have had enough.

When?

Thursday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Where?

Lowe-Volk Nature Center on SR 598 in Crawford County, in the Nature Center auditorium.

Join us!

For more information contact Michael Veloff at michaelveloff@ymail.com.

Thomas Linzey Stops on the 2015

Ohio Community Rights Tour:

 

November 12, 2015    7:00 PM  Ohio Tour Youngstown

Youngstown, Youngstown State University

210 Lincoln Avenue, Cushwa Hall B100

 

November 13, 2015    7:00 – 9:00 PM   OhioRevolt Athens

Athens, Ohio University, Morton Hall (East Green)

Room 201

 

November 14, 2015    12:00 PM    OhioRevolt Oberlin LWV

Oberlin,  LWV Luncheon  ­ Oberlin Inn

7 N Main St, Oberlin, OH 44074

 

November 14, 2015     7:30 PM  OhioRevolt Oberlin College

Oberlin,  Oberlin College, Craig Lecture Hall

119 Wooldand Street Oberlin, OH  44074

 

November 15, 2015   1:30 PM   OhioRevolt Defiance

Defiance,  UAW Local 211 Union Hall

2120 Baltimore Street, Defiance, OH 43512

 

November 16, 2015    6:30 – 8:00 PM   OhioRevolt Bowling Green

Bowling Green, Bowling Green State University,

Olscamp Hall, Room 117

 

November 17, 2015     12:00 P.M.   OhioRevolt Columbus OSU

Columbus, The Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law, William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium, Drinko Hall

55 W 12 Ave, Columbus, OH 43210

 

November 17, 2015     5:00 – 6:00 PM    OhioRevolt Columbus Capital

Columbus, Capital University Law School

303 E. Broad Street, Room A-122, Annex Columbus, Ohio, 43215.

Parking is available in the lot off Capital Street which is the entrance that everyone will need to use. The lot is attached to the building.