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Youngstown voters can learn from Niles drilling-ban repeal

Published: Wed, September 25, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

To its credit, Niles City Council last week used the power of repeal in the noble spirit it has been used throughout American history to correct errors in judgment and to respond to societal advances.

Just as legislators at all levels of government over the years have repealed unfair Jim Crow laws, unenforceable alcohol prohibition laws and unworkable Sunday closing “blue laws,’’ city legislators in Niles unanimously repealed its recently adopted Community Bill of Rights. That misnamed and misguided legislation quickly would have emerged as unfair, unenforceable and unworkable as well.

The Community Bill of Rights would have banned oil and gas drilling and related activities in every nook and cranny of Niles, thereby denying rights to free and relatively unfettered commerce to one of the Mahoning Valley’s fastest growing economic enterprises.


The Community Bill of Rights — which a handful of other Ohio communities have approved and which will again appear on the Nov. 5 ballot in Youngstown after its defeat at the polls in May — has been pushed aggressively by anti-fracking activists in the state in recent years.

The mayor and city council members in Niles bit the flimsy bait last month, when they approved the ban on hydraulic fracturing in Trumbull County’s second-largest city. Motivated by fear, misconceptions and misinformation from fracking opponents, they acted hastily to put the brakes on all possible drilling on city land.

Only after that vote did they come to grips with the facts that no drilling had been planned in residential neighborhoods in the city, no existing revenue-producing agreements for the city to provide water to drillers would remain legal, and no local governments in the state have the authority to supersede state law in the regulation of drilling in local communities.

Hindsight proved 20/20, and the full city council quickly and firmly corrected their knee-jerk reaction to the emotionally packed bill of goods sold to them from anti-fracking activists.


The time-wasting lessons learned by Niles city leaders, however, can prove instructive to any voters in Youngstown who remain on the fence over supporting or opposing the Community Bill of Rights in Mahoning County’s largest city when they go to the ballot box Nov. 5.

Should city voters dramatically change their thinking and approve the initiative later this fall, the process of undoing the damage would likely be much longer and much more painful than in Niles. If it’s left intact, the same dangers remain that we have vociferously argued about time and time again in this space.

In addition to the legality of local enforcement that counters state law, the Bill of Rights would yield many wrongs for the city. It would impolitely kick out drillers, curtail shale-play growth and place a stain on the city’s image as a viable place to grow business of any kind.

All of this controversy continues to play out in a backdrop of increasing evidence that hydraulic fracturing, when conducted properly and responsibly, remains safe. Just last week, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences released findings of a study that concluded that drilling and fracking for natural gas does not spew immense amounts of the greenhouse gas methane into the air, as many fractivists feared.

In addition, in states like Ohio, legislators have kept a watchful eye on the drilling industry and have enacted a series of firm regulations. We encourage such state oversight to continue.

But as Niles City Council and the Athens County Board of Elections, which recently refused to place the bill of rights on the ballot, rightly have recognized, oil and gas drilling provides an economic jolt for communities and a slow but steady move toward energy independence for the U.S. Youngstown voters should use the same sound reasoning in defeating the Community Bill of Rights at the polls Nov. 5.


1GeorgeinYoungstown(76 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Once again, the Vindicator coughs up enough oil & gas industry pocket lint to clog a fracked well.

First off, the "study" cited by the Vindy was not conducted by the NAS, it was, in fact, sponsored by NINE oil and natgas corporations +1 questionable "Big Green" org, and carried out by University of Texas researchers - yes, the same institution that was forced to withdraw an earlier fracking study due to conflict of interest:

From 2012:

"In Wake of Scathing Review of Fracking Report, University of Texas Revises Conflict of Interest Policies"


"UT-Austin has released the Steering Committee roster for the study. It consists of lead author David Allen, two EDF employees, and nine oil industry representatives, including lobbyists and PR staff from ExxonMobil, Shell, Southwestern Energy and more."

"One of the report's co-authors currently works as a consultant for the oil and gas industry, while another formerly worked as a petroleum engineer before entering academia."

(...it appears UT is back to its old ways.)

Not only that, but the study's findings do not differ that much from the findings of critics, and even concludes that toxic emissions from fracking are equal to or HIGHER in some instances than USEPA's conclusions:

"The study also found that leaks in other parts of the process — pneumatic pumps, controllers and other equipment — was either equal to or higher than the EPA previously estimated. Ultimately, this meant that total emissions came pretty close to the EPA's estimates."

"The report concludes .42% of fracked gas - based on samples taken from 190 production sites - is emitted into the air at the well pad. This is a full 2%-4% lower than well pad emissions estimated by Cornell University professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea in their ground-breaking April 2011 study now simply known as the 'Cornell Study.'"

Let's hope the Vindy editorial board can take some lessons on investigative journalism from some of its fine reporters before it pens another deceptive editorial...




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2Debbie(22 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

There is much here on which to comment, but the one point that should be clearly understood is that the multi-pronged process of shale gas extraction and the disposal of the highly toxic and radioactive waste that results is by no means (merely) a "business of any kind". Repeatedly verified facts concerning the inevitable dangers of unconventional hydraulic fracturing have been set before us all.....and those who nay-say the process are simply paying attention.

I, as much as anyone, have some awareness of what money can and cannot do. I am also aware of the direction that money does and does not flow. That being said, all the money in the world cannot save one from one's own folly and foolishness. Please, pay attention!

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