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Charter amendment is activism gone too far

Published: Wed, May 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

I am an environmentalist, geologist, scientist and educator who has devoted most of my professional career to investigating and solving water-quality issues throughout Northeast Ohio.

Over the past two years, I have concentrated much of my efforts on educating individuals, communities, business representatives and political leaders about shale-gas exploration and development and the associated environmental risks that come with it.

Environmentalists come from all walks of life and, just like anything else, their beliefs cover a wide spectrum. Individuals at one end of the spectrum practice conservation, and individuals at the other end practice environmental activism.

Environmental activists and extremists believe that environmental risk is unacceptable at any level and all activities that pose potential risks to the environment must be eliminated. The residents of the city of Youngstown should have the right to allow or refuse oil and gas activity within their city limits. However, Youngstown’s proposed charter amendment, or what is often referred to as the “Community Bill of Rights,” is the wrong way to go about securing this right and is a clear example of environmental activism gone too far.

The proposed charter amendment will appear on the May 7 primary election ballot. Although the ballot issue is an excellent example of democracy in action, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing because it sets out to do far different things than what it suggests and, if passed, can ultimately prove to be very costly to the city and its residents.

Reading the details of the proposed charter amendment and understanding the motivation of its proponents are essential to all voters who go to the polls May 7. The full text of the ballot issue is available online through the Mahoning County Board of Elections website.

I urge all residents of Youngstown to take a close look at the proposed amendment and question the motivation of its primary sponsor, the Frackfree America National Coalition. This local organization has a national agenda, and its members and supporters hope to use Youngstown to draw attention to their organization and further its mission of stopping the development of shale- energy resources across the country. In reality, their objectives have little to do with Youngstown and a lot to do with promoting their organization.

What exactly does the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights expect to achieve? The text of the amendment demonstrates the measure goes far beyond banning shale-gas activity in Youngstown. For example, Item B of the amendment suggests that with the right to clean air; all toxins, carcinogens, particulates and other substances known to cause harm to health would be banned from the air of Youngstown.

By definition, this measure would outlaw factory emissions and the operation of all internal combustion engines. Consider Item J-2: This would make it illegal to deposit, store or transport any fluids used in the production of gas or oil in the city of Youngstown. This measure is unenforceable as it would seemingly require the establishment of vehicle check points at all highways leading into and out of Youngstown and along Interstate 680.

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but doesn’t this violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution?

The promise of clean water, clean air and clean jobs is something everyone desires. The authors of the proposed charter amendment masquerade the measure as a pro-environment bill, when in reality it is a ploy to bring attention to their environmental activist group. If the bill was to pass, it would briefly shine the national spotlight on the Frackfree America National Coalition at the expense of Youngstown taxpayers as they foot the bill for the lengthy legal challenges that will follow and ultimately defeat the measure.

The citizens of Youngstown should have the right to permit or deny fracking in their city, but with this example of environmental activism gone too far, the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights achieves nothing of the kind.

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