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Sunday, July 7,2013

Group files petitions for November anti-fracking vote

By David DeWitt
Photo Credits: Photo provided by the BORC.
Photo Caption: Athens City Council member Jeff Risner, left, and local resident Nick Tuell, right, stand with Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht as the men file petition signatures for an anti-fracking ballot initiative. Both men are members of the Bill of Rights Committee.

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.

The Bill 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.

"Over the 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 Election Ballot."

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 gubernatorial election.

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 signatures.

The group was confident the issue would make the ballot.

"We are 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 Elections.

"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 upstream.

He said the reason to address potential issues upstream is because that water flows downstream into Athens County and its communities.


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I grew up in Athens, and I'm considering retiring there. If the water supply is poisoned, however, I definitely won't, and I'm sure that many others won't either.


I wouldn't retire (or live) anywhere that has poison water either.
So what's the point?




Hey BORC, why not start with all of the upstream jurisdictions that have OEPA endorsed Wellhead Protection plans. Here's a link

Leax, Nelsonville, Burr Oak, Logan, Sugar Grove, Lancaster all have approved plans. If their plans regulate uses that might contaminate their source water, would it not make sense that would be the areas they would most likely want to protect? Or is the BORC rhetoric just political flag waving without a practical agenda?