Activists seek to put anti-fracking charter amendment on ballot
By Burton Speakman
After the “community bill of rights” failed in the May primary election, a group of anti-fracking activists are back at it, trying to put the initiative on the November ballot.
The bill was defeated in May by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent.
The proposed charter amendment would ban compression stations and pipelines from being installed within city limits in addition to banning any type of fracking operations or disposal wells for wastewater from fracking.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open to extract oil and gas.
Activists have obtained about 500 signatures out of the 1,562 required to get the issue on the November ballot, said Susie Beiersdorfer, anti-fracking activist and Green Party candidate for Youngstown City Council president.
The bill does include one change in language compared to the previous version. It exempts manufactured products, including the sale of components and materials used in oil and gas exploration, from the proposed ban, she said.
“More people are waking up to the risks associated with fracking,” Beiersdorfer said. “We fully expect it to pass if we get it back on the ballot.”
Tony Paglia, vice president of government and media affairs for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said he is not surprised the bill is being reintroduced, but “thought the public spoke pretty loudly against it the first time. It wasn’t a close vote.”
Public opinion was that the bill would show the oil and gas industry that Youngstown is not interested in the jobs affiliated with the industry and would hurt economic development, Paglia said.
The previous vote shows the public supports continued economic development stemming from oil and gas development in the area, he said.
The Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment will be brought back together to oppose the bill a second time, Paglia said. The coalition includes business leaders, along with local Republican and Democratic party leaders who opposed the bill.
Bill opponents argued before the last election the community bill of rights would be unenforceable because state law gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the exclusive power to determine where to license wells for oil and gas in the state.
Those responsible for leading the charge against fracking in Youngstown won’t let one vote stop them, Beiersdorfer said.
“This is not a three-month or six-month campaign. We’re in this for the long term,” she said.
People forget about events like the earthquakes being caused by injection wells and the illegal dumping by Hardrock Excavating pretty quickly, but those incidents have had a “pretty big” impact locally, Beiersdorfer said.
“A lot of people aren’t going to pay attention until it starts affecting them, but we’re going to keep hammering on,” she said.
The chamber and coalition are also “in this for the long term,” Paglia said, adding that the language change would still have a potential negative impact on industrial business.