To the Editor:

Do you remember in fall of 2011, when the fracking landmen came to town offering bonuses for signed mineral-rights leases, when they were caught on tape claiming that chemical-laden fracking water was essentially Dawn dishwashing liquid? Where were the governmental protections? They’d already been sold – not leased but sold – to the O&G industry. The rights of corporations to profit turned out to be our only protection; our geology didn’t support fracking. That’s the only reason we don’t see fracking pads covering our hills like a swarm of malaria-infected mosquitoes, sucking our blood and poisoning us for the trouble.

But as you know, the O&G industry has decided that our geology is just fine for dumping its toxic excrement. We’re told the state will protect us, but the ODNR preempts our rights and sells our home for pennies. What sort of government gives distant business owners the right to maximize profit but denies local people the right to protect themselves from paying the externalized costs? What sort of government? Exactly the government we have right now!

Good people have been trying to protect our county, following the regulatory rules and laws imposed on us by Columbus, rules and laws often shaped by O&G lobbyists. How well has all this effort worked out? The fracking sewage trucks continue to come by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, with no sensible, meaningful limits, with almost no monitoring or oversight. Good people keep following the regulatory rules, going to hearings, writing letters, calling legislators and the ODNR: again and again and again and again, hoping things will turn out different this time. As the saying goes, that’s a pretty darn functional description of madness.

Proponents of local democratic control of our health and safety are reminding us that we have another choice. We have an inalienable right to health and safety in our community. We have a constitutional right to decide through the ballot if we want a charter form of government to protect our health and safety.

For the past several years, the local Bill of Rights Committee has worked tirelessly to help us assert our rights. But every year, government actors have concocted one after another pretext for denying us our rights.

In a hearing on March 1, the Fourth District Court of Appeals considered whether it would allow the people of Athens County to vote this coming November on the proposed adoption of a charter form of government. Supporters of the appeal were at the Athens County Courthouse that day not only to bear witness to the hearing. We were there to celebrate in anticipation of our independence from the impositions of the O&G industry and their hirelings if that is the court’s decision. And we were there to say this is not the end of the fight if our government once again decides that the O&G industry has greater rights to profit than Athens County residents have rights to protect our health and safety.

We’re here, we’re united, and we’re not going to stop demanding our rights until we truly have them.

Thanks to the Bill of Rights Committee, thanks to Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and thanks to all the community activists who are fighting for health, safet and democratic rights in Athens County.

Austin Babrow

Dover Township, Athens County