Two Ohio cities soundly reject charter amendments to ban fracking

Staff/wire report


Voters in two Ohio cities, including Youngstown, overwhelmingly rejected proposed charter amendments that proponents claimed would prevent hydraulic fracturing and related activity.

At the polls in November, Bowling Green residents rejected a ban on fracking by 3,549 votes, or 75 percent. Those in favor of the ban accounted for 25 percent, or 1,194 votes.

The proposal was the result of an initiative petition that collected nearly twice the number of signatures required to make the ballot. Several hundred people less than the number who signed the petition cast favorable ballots. Mayor Richard Edwards, who spearheaded a coalition to preserve the city charter, was elated with the outcome. “While the exercise of protecting the city charter was frustrating at times, in a more positive sense the issue focused attention on the purpose and intent of the charter and council’s prescribed legislative role,” Edwards said.“

For the second time in 2013, Youngstown voters rejected a citizen- initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in the city.

But supporters of the proposal that failed in November and in the May primary said they’ll be back for a third time next year.

“We’re going again,” said Lynn Anderson, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee, the lead group supporting the ban.

“This will not stop. We have to save our lives, our air and our water. We’ll keep putting it on the ballot until it passes.”

“This amendment was a jobs killer,” said Butch Taylor, the union’s business manager.

In May, the anti-fracking charter amendment failed by 13.7 percentage points compared with 9.7 percentage points in November. But there were 6,749 votes on this issue in May. There were 10,506 on the issue in November.

“This is two consecutive decisive victories in support of these [fracking] jobs and this investment,” said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “My hope is it sends a message” to opponents.

Susie Beiersdorfer, a Community Bill of Rights Committee member, said, “We’ll continue on. It will be back in some form or another. We’re not quitting. We’re coming back.”

Attorney Alan Wenger, a coalition member and chairman of the oil and gas group at the Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell law firm, said the language on the proposed amendment wasn’t constitutional as it conflicts with state law. But he added that a case likely to be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court on the issue should clear up any confusion regarding a city’s right to supercede state law.

“These folks are very ardent and sincere in their concerns, but I feel the law is very flawed,” he said.

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