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Anti-Fracking Amendment Defeated in Youngstown, OH

Despite a dozen small earthquakes in 2011 blamed on wastewater disposal wells, voters in the City of Youngstown, OH, stood firm on Tuesday and defeated, by a 57-43% margin, an amendment to the city's charter that would have banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

According to unofficial results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections, there were 3,821 votes against the amendment and 2,880 votes in favor.

The amendment, which had been dubbed the "Youngstown Community Bill of Rights," called for a ban on fracking but also would have prohibited pipelines, processing facilities, compressors and storage and transportation facilities.

Alan D. Wenger, an attorney with the Youngstown-based firm Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell Ltd., told NGI's Shale Daily that although he represents landowners in the region, some of his clients' interests are aligned with the amendment's supporters, including environmental, land use and safety issues.

"I respect anyone who has concerns and wants to hold the industry accountable and make sure that regulators are doing what they are supposed to do," Wenger said Wednesday. "I hope that is not lost in this charter amendment situation.

"[But] the charter amendment itself was terribly drafted, unenforceable, way overbroad and very much deserved defeat. If [the supporters] asked me, I would direct them toward efforts to work through the legislative process and to try and raise the public consciousness of our regulations. That's the right way, rather than trying to pass these amendments that really have no legal significance. They're just a matter of principle."

Representatives for two environmental groups based in Youngstown that were supporting the amendment -- Frackfree America National Coalition and Frackfree Mahoning Valley -- could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Last October, the Youngstown City Council voted 5-2 in favor of an ordinance that could open city-owned land to oil and natural gas drilling (see Shale Daily, Oct. 19, 2012).

In March 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a preliminary report that said twelve small earthquakes in northeastern Ohio may have been caused by a Class II injection well owned by Youngstown-based D&L Energy Inc. (see Shale Daily, March 12, 2012). The well is offline and depressurized.

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