The debate on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Mahoning Valley versus its potential economic gains has national implications.
This is evident in the ongoing efforts to keep an anti-fracking proposal off the ballot or defeat the measure once again at the polls.
Once again, a charter amendment proposed by the FrackFree America National Coalition, known as the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights, will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. The slightly modified charter amendment would ban fracking and the injection of drilling waste water in the city of Youngstown.
It also declares the community’s right to pure air, clean water, peaceful enjoyment of home, freedom from toxic trespass, natural communities, a sustainable- energy future and local community self-governance.
Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment — a group of business and labor leaders — filed an objection to the amendment. The protest was later withdrawn from the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
To complicate the issue even further, Niles City Council passed a resolution to ban fracking within city limits and later rescinded it.
The previous charter-amendment initiative in Youngstown lost by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin in May. It is not inconceivable, however, that it could pass in November in its modified form.
This would not set a good precedent for the U.S. oil and gas industry.
It is clear now to many people that as the industry builds up around the Valley and beyond, it has both the potential for increased economic prosperity and increased environmental impacts.
Thus, it would be logical for America’s National Gas Alliance and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to sell economic prosperity to the residents inhabiting the lands above the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania before the November election. That is what they have to offer in exchange for access to the natural resources.
The column’s name is “Mike on Frack.” The author is yours truly. Although I am pretty sure my own mother does not read my column (I have never asked her), I was contacted by a representative from America’s National Gas Alliance in Washington, D.C. The representative wanted to inform me of “America’s New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil & Gas Revolution and the U.S. Economy,” a new report that projects the jobs impact of shale across the country and broken down to include Ohio numbers as well.
I was then contacted by Christopher Guith, vice president of the Policy Institute for 21st Century Energy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Usually, I am required to reach out for information, and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so special.
In all seriousness, it was a very good and informative dialog with Guith. He informed me of this “first-of-its-kind” study. In subsequent articles, I plan to decompose this information with the help of Guith. The study, in its entire form, is available at www.energyxxi.org/shale. In general, the financial gain he projects does certainly appear to be significant.
Rather than attempts to stifle people’s right to vote, this type of hard data is a better way for the industry to convince the public — including the voters of Youngstown — to vote against another charter amendment.