A group of Athens-based anti-fracking activists
presented petition signatures Wednesday to city Auditor Kathy Hecht for a
ballot initiative that would ban the controversial oil-and-gas drilling
technique (and related activities such as injection wells) in the city if
approved by voters.
of Rights Committee (BORC) has been working toward getting a ban of
deep-shale oil and gas drilling activities and waste disposal on the ballot in
November as a citizens' initiative.
A press release Sunday announced that the appropriate
number of signatures were collected and submitted this past week.
past several weeks, volunteers have taken to the streets to educate the public
and gather signatures in hope of bringing this issue before the voters," the
release stated. "Today, we are pleased to announce that BORC has successfully
submitted the necessary number of signatures to qualify for this year's General
The Athens County Board of Elections had previously
determined that 472 valid signatures were needed to place the initiative on the
November ballot. That number represents 10 percent of city voters in the last
Hecht said Sunday that she is required to hold the
petitions for 10 days before submitting them to the elections board for review.
She said the elections board then determines the validity of the signatures and
also holds them for 10 days. After that, if the 472 valid signature threshold
is met, the issue goes onto the ballot, she said, as long as it's certified 90
days before the Nov. 5 election. Hecht said the group turned in near 780
The group was confident the issue would make the
excited and pleased with the work we've accomplished thus far and promise to
continue our efforts in educating the public of the dangers of fracking
through (the election)," the release concluded. "We feel clean water is a
right to all citizens, and the practice of fracking threatens that very right
and the future of our community."
In an introductory
paragraph, the release said that over the past few years the potential for deep
shale hydraulic fracturing and fracking waste disposal in Athens has become a
concern. (None of these things are currently happening within the city of
Athens, and none have been proposed.)
"The unsafe, unclean, and
unwelcome practice threatens the very well-being of the Athens community and
the water quality of its citizens," the release stated. "Through conversations
with public officials, business owners, students and numerous other Athens
residences, members of the Bill of Rights Committee decided to propose a ban on
such practices to the voters of Athens."
Bill of Rights Committee
member Nick Tuell, following up on some questions, confirmed that the valid
number of signatures will be determined by the Athens County Board of
"We are confident that
we've collected enough to qualify," he said. "During this process, we will
continue to educate the public on the initiative."
The group also has been promoting a Hocking Valley
watershed summit to be hosted by the League of Women Voters that would pull
together all the communities that could be impacted by new drilling activity in
the Hocking watershed.
"To protect the water supply, upstream cities,
villages and townships must join the fight," BORC spokesperson Dick McGinn
has said. "We need upstream help from folks in Nelsonville and Logan and Lancaster,
to join with us in similar kinds of legislation."
McGinn has also said that the Athens law is intended
to send a message upstream.
"Our intention is to ban fracking inside the city and
its jurisdiction and at the same time send a stern warning upstream to people
who would possibly be attempting to endanger the environment, that would
endanger our water supply," he said.
The reference to "jurisdiction," McGinn has said,
comes from a section of Ohio Revised Code (VII 743.25) that authorizes a municipality
to prosecute polluters of the water supply "within 20 miles of the
municipal corporation limits." McGinn has noted that this applies
He said the reason to address potential issues
upstream is because that water flows downstream into Athens County and its