By BURTON SPEAKMAN
With an eye toward the release of “Promised Land,” a movie about a Pennsylvania town making a decision about whether or not to allow fracking, local protesters marched in Youngstown to promote their own effort to ban the practice in the city.
Activist Lynn Anderson asked everyone who attended Friday’s event to sign a petition on the Frackfree America website that would put an issue on the ballot to ban fracking.
“We’re putting the issue directly on the ballot because the mayor and the city council are not serving the citizens,” she said.
The plan is to gain enough signatures to place a referendum on the primary ballot in May, Anderson said.
Doug Shields, former Pittsburgh city councilman who helped get a similar ban on fracking passed in Pittsburgh, said he talks to a lot of farmers who regret leasing mineral rights to the oil and gas industry.
“[The industry] promises a lot, gives very little and takes everything,” Shields said.
Citizens should pass these types of bans to protect their future, he said.
Dan Alfaro, spokesman for Energy In Depth-Ohio, an oil- and gas-industry support organization, criticized Shields’ involvement in trying to help pass a ban on fracking in Youngstown.
“It’s not surprising Mr. Shields would welcome the opportunity to jump in the limelight, albeit a small, dim one, to continue promoting his factless agenda,” Alfaro said. “It’s politics at its worst — his propagandist messages no longer hold sway in southwestern Pennsylvania, so he looks to gain celebrity amongst a small group of anti-fossil fuel
activists across the river in engaging in the politics of distraction.”
The protest did not go exactly as the protesters had hoped.
Chris Lewis, director of marketing and public relations for Stambaugh Auditorium, asked the protesters to leave the stairway of the historic auditorium on Fifth Avenue.
“You didn’t ask for permission, and you can’t be here on private property,” Lewis said to the marchers.
The protesters left without incident, starting again across the street in Wick Park.
“Stambaugh Auditorium is in no way affiliated with any group in support of or in opposition to any issue of this kind, and does not endorse protests or demonstrations of any sort on the property,” Lewis wrote in a statement after the protesters left.