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Home / Articles / Editorial / Letters /  Smith misunderstands how ban on fracking would work
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Sunday, February 24,2013

Smith misunderstands how ban on fracking would work

To the Editor:

It is good that Mr. Smith has brought attention to the proposed Athens Bill of Rights related to oil and gas deep-shale drilling ("Wearing Thin," Feb. 21). It would have perhaps been better had he actually read the proposed ordinance, or at least read it carefully.

The Preamble of the proposed ordinance does quote Title VII, Chapter 743, Section 25, of the Ohio Revised Code which says, "The jurisdiction of a municipal corporation to prevent the pollution of its water supply and to provide a penalty therefore shall extend twenty miles beyond the municipal corporation limits."

The preamble of an ordinance merely provides the background and context for the ordinance. The ordinance itself, in its Statements of Law Section 5a, says only, "It shall be unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of shale gas and oil, within the city limits of Athens or its jurisdiction." The existing statute raises a question as to the city's jurisdiction, but the proposed ordinance avoids any attempt to define its jurisdiction. Mr. Smith seems to be taking issue not with the proposed ordinance but with current state law.

He does say he would have no problem with a fracking ban within the city limits. So we are pleased to have his support for the ordinance. Real protection of the city's water supply would require a drilling ban in the entire aquifer upstream from the city, which goes beyond 20 miles from Athens. Adoption of the proposed ordinance may encourage other communities sharing the aquifer to take the same step, providing something closer to real protection.

The contentious issue of whether or not deep-shale drilling for gas and oil presents a threat to water supplies is still under debate, although the risk to water supplies of drilling operations in the aquifer seems undeniable. How great the risk is can be argued, but most people seem unwilling to accept much, if any, risk to something as essential to life as clean water. The relatively few who might stand to gain financially from such drilling are the noisy supporters, arguing that extraction of gas is essential to our economy and our survival and that any impediment to its extraction is a threat to the country. The real threat to the country and to the entire planet is, of course, the continued use of fossil fuels.

And yes, Mr. Smith, the state may have a problem with the proposed ordinance, since it has given all authority over drilling to its agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The question is whether that delegation of authority and the decisions ODNR makes are consistent with the Ohio Constitution, which states in Article I, Section 1 that, "All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety. "Can the courts condone state laws and regulations which in effect deprive us of our inalienable right to "life" and "safety"? Our Constitution gives us inalienable rights to "acquiring, possessing and protecting property," but apparently not to destroying that property, degrading the land, and threatening the life and safety of others.

John Howell
Clarks Chapel Road


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