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Sunday, September 15,2013

Unlike in Athens, fracking bans proceed to ballot in two other Ohio cities

By David DeWitt

Photo Caption: A map from the Bill of Rights Committee shows the city's jurisdiction for water contamination events.

Two other county boards of elections in Ohio have now voted to send anti-fracking measures to their local voters in November, similar to the proposal that the Athens County Board of Elections would not approve for the ballot.

In the weeks since the Athens County Board of Elections declined to certify an anti-fracking ballot initiative in the city, the attorneys who argued that case have gone on to do so twice more but getting the opposite results.

While the Athens-based Lavelle and Associates successfully convinced the Athens elections board to uphold a protest against the ballot proposal, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has prevailed in two subsequent cases, one in Youngstown and the other in Bowling Green.

Most recently, in Bowling Green, the attempt by Lavelle and Associates to remove an anti-fracking charter amendment from the ballot was rejected by the Wood County Board of Elections.

That protest was filed on behalf of one resident, businessman John Kretzschmar. In both Athens and Youngstown, the protests had been filed by groups of residents.

Attorney John Lavelle, who has represented area landowners interested in leasing their oil and gas rights, reportedly used familiar arguments to the Wood County board, stating that the proposal was administrative not legislative, that the language was too vague, and that the measure would not stand up in court. Lavelle used all of these arguments in the Athens County case as well.

Meanwhile, CELDF's Sean Kelly, who argued in favor of the ballot initiative in Athens and also represented the measure in Youngstown, told the Wood County board that the content of the proposal is outside the board's purview, arguing that their responsibility was only to decide the "sufficiency and validity" of the signatures on the petitions themselves.

In Youngstown last week, a protest asking the Mahoning County elections board to deny certification of a petition by the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee was withdrawn at the last minute.

Lavelle had represented the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment that filed the petition.

After the protest was withdrawn, the Mahoning County board voted unanimously to certify the petition, with one member recusing himself from voting.

The Business Journal, a Youngstown area publication, reported that the Youngstown protest was withdrawn as two members of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, David Betras, a Democrat, and Tracey Winbush, a Republican, are members of the group that filed the protest.

Both Betras and Winbush asked voters to reject a similar amendment that failed at the ballot in May. Betras eventually abstained from the recent vote.

Meanwhile, the CELDF has come out with a release alleging a "clandestine, but well-orchestrated attempt by backers of toxin-laden frack drilling and poison injection wells to block citizens from deciding for themselves whether state-permitted poisons will be allowed to be pumped and dumped in their communities."

It cited all three cases, highlighting that the Athens County board's decision was made "without explanation."

CELDF attorney Sean Kelly has sent a letter to the Athens elections board requesting a written, point-by-point explanation for its decision on each of the four subjects Lavelle filed the protest under.

So far, a response to that letter has not been available from the Board of Elections.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who legally represents the board, has said the subject could come up when the board next meets this Wednesday.

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2 observations:

1) Why does CELDF have to invent a giant conspiracy theory and demonize those who just want continued discussion. I for one am not a conspirator to inject poisons and toxins into wells just because ballot techniques are questioned.

2) There is great distinction (not mentioned by the reporter of this article) between the 3 initiatives.....kinda the apples and oranges thing. In the Bowling Green and Youngstown cases, the prohibition would be within the city limits. In the case of Athens, the prohibition would be beyond the ability of an affected owner to file their own referendum to reverse passage. As someone within 20 miles who might be affected, I have no way of claiming standing to reverse a law passed by the City by petition.

BORC don't bark so loud. Go back to the drawing board and propose something with effect just in the City.



Or maybe a more accurate and honest article and title would have been "Unlike Athens, fracking bans in two other Ohio cities don't exceed their jurisdiction and authority"



I was concerned about the "jurisdiction" issue, too, and wrote two columns questioning it several months ago. However, since then, it's become clear that the main problem with that language in the proposed initiative is that it muddies up the proposal, confuses things for voters, is unenforceable, and almost certainly will invite an expensive-to-defend legal challenge.

Nobody, however, seriously envisions a situation where city of Athens enforcers will be regulating drilling activities outside the city limits. It's just not going to happen and I'd be happy to bet good money that it won't come to that.


Yes, you have been objective and realistic. If BORC wants to continue to take the extreme/radical position on the State level, then they need to lobby Representative Phillips on the MRM regulations. On the local level, Councilman Reisner needs to lobby his fellow legislators to adopt an ordinance banning fracking and injection wells in the entire city, not just the wellhead area. On that front, it seems the BORC counterparts in Youngstown and Bowling Green have their act together.
So, Councilman Reisner and Representative Phillips, the ball in seems to be in your court.



If you frack on your land what will it be worth after? What if we pass a law to give landowners a tax exemption for decades or find some other way to compensate them if they agree not to allow it?  Is it too late for that?

They get the same money in a way that they can pass their beautiful, clean land onto their kids with an exemption, and us hippies will play a benefit concert to pay their legal fees and then we can all be friends and enjoy a great community that doesn't have tanks of benzene spilling into it like the ship of fools in Colorado have now.

I can't believe landowners want the pollution either but let's face it, the means to live comfortably is important, money is important to people, I get it everyone has a different opinion about money, so let's find a way to compensate these folks for not fracking.

There has got to be a solution to this, I've worked industrial jobs before and we paid no attention to the safety or environmental rules.  One place had a PCB tar pit above the Little Miami and I spent a summer shoveling onto a conveyor belt with no safety line, OSHA none the wiser. We all know it will end up in our water, save the lip service for the ignorant.

I love this community and all the people in it.  How can we find a way to have everyone's goals met?  The landowners get compensated, and we all get to enjoy a clean community for ourselves and our kids.  The folks with land could feel good about winning twice, you get paid AND you get to keep a clean environment!  You win x2!  Maybe x3 if you count not getting taken advantage of by the oil companies who have expert negatiators and use fear that you'll miss out to get you on the cheap.