Petitions for an anti-fracking charter amendment were given to the city’s clerk of council
By David Skolnick
Members of a group wanting to ban fracking in the city said if their second effort, on the Nov. 5 ballot, fails, they’ll be back again and again.
The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee submitted petitions Monday to the clerk of council for review, as is required under city law, before it goes to the Mahoning County Board of Elections to get certified to the ballot.
The group needs petitions with at least 1,562 signatures. The group submitted about 2,450 signatures Monday, said Susie Beiersdorfer, a committee member and the Green Party candidate for city-council president. The signatures were collected in one month, she said.
City voters in May rejected a similar charter amendment 56.85 percent to 43.15 percent.
If it is rejected again, the anti-fracking issue won’t go away “until we win, until we have our right to local control,” Beiersdorfer said. “We’re in it for the long haul. Also, we’re working on the state level [on laws] that took away local control.”
A lack of “local control” is the reason opponents to the charter amendment say the proposal is unenforceable even if it passes.
The state has complete control over regulating gas and oil drilling, officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have said several times.
The bill includes one change in language compared with the one rejected in May. It exempts manufactured products, including the sale of components and materials used in gas and oil exploration, from the proposed ban. That would include the seamless pipes manufactured at the $1.1 billion Vallourec Star expansion facility.
“This is not about killing jobs,” said Lynn Anderson, a committee member.
Members of the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth — a group of business and labor officials, attorneys and politicians that oppose the charter amendment — say even with the change, the language is too broad and unconstitutional. The coalition asked voters July 30 to not sign petitions to get the initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee will start a “public-awareness” campaign with a town-hall-style meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown, 1105 Elm St. Committee members will address drilling issues and answer questions about fracking and its proposal. The committee also is inviting opponents of its proposal to discuss the issue at the meeting.