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Will fracking headlines affect charter vote for ban?

Published: Sun, April 27, 2014 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Tom McParland



It hasn’t been a great month for the reputation of fracking.

First, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on April 11 announced a “probable” connection between the drilling practice and a slew of earthquakes that shook Poland Township in early March.

Then, less than a week later, a report emerged that measured emissions of the greenhouse gas methane at Pennsylvania drilling sights at levels up to 1,000 times higher than federal regulators initially estimated.

Both issues made national and international headlines, and a group of fracking opponents hope that momentum will help to push a citizen initiative to ban fracking in the city limits to victory on its third try.

“The fact that those stories are getting into the mainstream media, that is making the difference,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee, the lead group supporting the ban.

She said the group has redoubled its efforts after similar efforts failed by significant margins last year. Between Jan. 1 and April 16, the anti-fracking committee raised $6,328 and spent $4,479 on political signs and meetings to draw awareness to their cause.

On Wednesday, Beiersdorfer and the organization Frackfree Mahoning Valley organized a press conference outside of City Hall to protest the dangers of fracking and ODNR’s handling of its investigation into the Poland quakes.

But Youngstown residents are no strangers to the controversy surrounding fracking.

In 2012, they learned that a Youngstown injection well caused as many as 109 low-magnitude earthquakes. The following February, the illegal dumping of fracking wastewater prompted a weeks-long cleanup of the Mahoning River and one of its tributaries.

After both events, nearly identical charter amendments failed at the May and November ballots.

Charter-issue foes have focused debate on jobs, arguing that a fracking ban would drive away companies that would have come in the city to support the oil and gas industry.

“It’s a measure that would hurt the economy and the opportunity we have to jobs and investment,” said Tony Paglia, spokesman for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

The chamber spearheaded the effort to organize the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment to combat the initiative. The coalition of businesses, labor, legal representatives and political leaders has developed a program of education and outreach to defeat the issue.

It has the financial backing of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, which has spent $40,949 in an effort to defeat the measure next month.

“It’s a small price to pay for growth,” said Butch Taylor, the union’s business manager. “It’s our livelihood. It’s our growth.”

Beyond the debate, there are questions about whether Community Bill of Rights would even be enforceable if it became law.

State law establishes ODNR as the sole regulator of the oil and gas industry in Ohio, meaning that the agency would likely pre-empt any authority the amendment would give to the city, said Alan Wenger, a coalition member and oil and gas attorney with Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell Ltd.

Further, it is too broadly written and opens landowners and companies up to “unfathomable” litigation, he said.

“It’s a law that just never, ever should be imposed,” Wenger said, adding that it would likely not hold up to a challenge in the courts.

Wenger said he respects and shares the concerns of the anti-fracking committee members, but he discounts their measure as neither a realistic nor appropriate way of dealing with legitimate concerns.

“I think there should be more regulation, but this is not a regulatory measure.”

Beiersdorfer, confident the measure will pass, would not say if there would be a fourth attempt should it fail again. She said the group will continue to push a dialogue about fracking. “That’s really what’s missing in this whole thing, is the ability to have public dialogue and conversation,” she said.


1Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This fracking debate brings us to an interesting intersection for a number of reasons. First, there is more than a plethora of articles identifying fracking with earthquakes and environmental destruction. Youngstown has been witness to both. Secondly, recent arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court related to free speech and campaigning are germane to this fracking controversy. The Vindicator failed to indicate that the Plumbers Local has spent a lot of money campaigning against this measure. One of the principle arguments that the Plumbers Union published in its campaign material is that this ballot measure would be job killer. However, the Plumbers Local has no data to support its position. On the other hand, there is plenty of data to suggest that fracking companies do bring in their own talent and that affected localities don't benefit at all with the creation of local jobs. In this regard, the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately opine that firms and individuals can provide whatever false material they want when campaigning. It will ultimately be up to the voter to discrimate between falsity and fact. The sad fact is that voters can be stupid when it comes to voting on controversial issues such as this one.

I, for one, am voting for the ballot initiative knowing full well that fracking causes earthquakes, creates substantial environmental damage, and does virtually nothing for the creation of local jobs. The end result, no matter how frustrating for many of us, is that other power players will keep this wrapped up in litigation for so many years that local residents will probably never feel any positive effect. In this sense, our national and state legislatures have failed the public in general and Youngstown specifically.

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2UticaShale(854 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The AntiFrackers need to answer one question, they always avoid.

Why is it only the City of Youngstown, the Poorest of the poor in the Mahoning Valley, that they wish to ban? Majority of the poor Blacks, Latinos and whites of the City is who they only wish to ban. Poland, Canfield, Boardman, Austintown, Struthers, Campbell, the whole COUNTY are cashing in on their minerals, but NO, Ban the POOR from selling their minerals.

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3chrisak811(7 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The reason Frackfree Mahoning Valley is working to ban fracking in the city of Youngstown is because Youngstown is OUR HOME. We don't want our children to be poisoned by water contaminated by fracking wastewater, which contains radioactive elements and cancer-causing chemicals. We don't want our young mothers to suffer miscarriages caused by the endocrine disruptors in the wastewater. We want to keep Mill Creek Park beautiful and protect the Mahoning River from more illegal toxic dumping. We are fighting to PROTECT OUR HOME.

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4Attis(879 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

You forgot to mention the case of the Parr family in Texas. On Earth Day a jury awarded them $3 million in punitive and compensatory damages for the extensive health problems they suffered from the toxic pollution caused by nearby fracking operations. After the toxic fracking started close to their home, the mother, father and 11-year-old chid began to have nosebleeds, vision problems, nausea, rashes, headaches; spells of dizziness; high blood pressure; and vomiting of white foam. Of course the mother (earth) frackers claim their pollution had nothing to do with the family's health problems.

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5commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

You don't want to drill??? Then do not
USE the products derived from drilling!!!

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6chrisak811(7 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I would happily stop using the products derived from drilling if the government would subsidize the electric car, making it affordable for the average citizen.

Also, despite what our politicians say, the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights IS enforceable. The identical bill of rights passed and has been enforced in Yellow Springs, Broadview Heights, and Mansfield.

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7NoWorries(6 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

>> "I would happily stop using the products derived from drilling if the government would subsidize the electric car, making it affordable for the average citizen"

Electric car, full of plastics from Oil, runs on electricity created from burning coal and natural gas. Full of heavy metals dug from the earth and shipped around the world on ships using fuel from oil. Unless you go back to the horse and buggy you cannot escape the fact that you're going to use something that came up out of a pipe. It's just the way it is.

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8YSU_Alumna(37 comments)posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Somehow, some way, the hydraulic fracturing executives managed to get their "ingenious" methodology of raping the land to make $$ exempt from most safety regulations; or at least exempt from the same safety standards & inspections with which traditional gas drilling must comply. Why is that????! Wouldn't it make sense to have pipes checked for leaks to ensure water safety and to utilize NONCARCINOGENIC materials? I too love the Youngstown where I had friends, went to college & still brag about Mill Creek Park. I know things have changed but I still love the people there and I want them safe from earthquakes, cancer & greedy corporations.

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