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A citizen-initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in Youngstown is back on the ballot for the third time in a year.
City voters rejected the proposal in May and Novem- ber 2013. It lost by 13.7 percentage points the first time and by 9.7 percentage points in November.
After each defeat, members of the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee, which collected signatures on petitions to get the charter amendment on the ballot, vowed to return time and time again.
But they’re hesitant to commit to a fourth time if the proposal is rejected again.
“I’m not going to say that; I’m not thinking about a fourth time right now,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a committee member. “I don’t think we’ll have to be back again.”
Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said of those backing the initiative: “These are good people with bad information. You put it on the ballot once and you look like concwerned citizens. A second time and you look like activists. A third time and you look out of touch.”
But those backing the bill say fracking supporters are ignoring the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.
“The gas and oil industry doesn’t have concerns about public safety,” Beiersdorfer said.
Opponents of the fracking ballot proposal outspent supporters $61,000 to $8,000 in May 2013 and $82,000 to $4,000 in November.
As they did the last two times, the Mahoning Valley Coalition on Job Growth and Investment — consisting of union officials, business leaders, attorneys and politicians, and coordinated by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber — also question the legality of the charter amendment.
It is too far-reaching, and unenforceable as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has control over fracking in the state, coalition members say.
“The fight is with the state and not with us,” said David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman, an attorney and coalition member.
The proposal gives any city resident “the authority to enforce this law through an action in equity” in court, the ballot issue reads.
Despite not being enforceable, if the amendment is passed it will greatly harm the city’s reputation as a place that is business-friendly to the oil and gas industry, said Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally.
“This charter amendment would serve as a job killer,” he said.
“It will chase away good-paying manufacturing jobs,” the mayor added.
Beiersdorfer said some of the jobs involved with fracking including those that store or transport wastewater or fracking water shouldn’t be wanted by city officials.