City officials in Youngstown, OH, have asked the state Supreme Court to reverse a county board of elections vote that would prevent a referendum to ban oil and gas development within city limits from appearing on the November ballot.
The city filed the complaint last week after the Mahoning County Board of Elections voted unanimously not to certify a grassroots petition that would ask voters to amend Youngstown's charter to prohibit any kind of oil and gas activity (see Shale Daily, Aug. 27). FrackFree Mahoning Valley, which circulated the petition was not a part of the city's decision. Similar proposals were rejected by city voters in 2013 and 2014.
Through its law director, the city has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to order the charter amendment proposal back on the ballot. In its decision, the board of elections cited an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that found municipalities could not prohibit oil and gas development in a way that conflicts with the state's regulatory authority (see Shale Daily, Feb. 17).
Last week, board chairman Mark Munroe told NGI's Shale Daily that he expected a legal challenge against the vote, but said it would likely come from the citizens that circulated the petition. Prior to the board's vote, however, the Youngstown City Council had voted to send the charter proposal to the board for certification.
Councilman Mike Ray said the council received a legal opinion from city law director Martin Hume to move the petition to the county. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has invalidated similar petitions in Athens, Fulton and Medina counties that he said were an attempt to circumvent state law and legal precedent (see Shale Daily, Aug. 14). Youngstown officials said Husted's decision does not apply to the city because it was made at the county level.
Hume has maintained that that any challenges to the constitutionality of the ballot proposal should come if it's passed. The Ohio Supreme Court has also been asked to review the legality of Husted's decision against petitions in Athens, Fulton and Medina counties (see Shale Daily, Aug. 21).