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Youngstown, OH Rejects Anti-Fracking Amendment, Again

Same question, same answer. For the second time in six months, voters in Youngstown, OH, on Tuesday rejected, by about a 55-45% margin, an amendment to the city's charter that would have banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other activities that support shale development.

The amendment in Youngstown called for a ban on fracking within the city limits, but it would have also prohibited depositing, storing and transporting wastewater from shale operations; building infrastructure that supported shale development, including compressor stations, pipelines and processing, storage and transportation facilities; and water extraction from the surface or subsurface to support shale development.

According to unofficial results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections, 5,764 votes (54.86%) were cast in Youngstown against the amendment, while 4,742 votes (45.14%) were made in favor. A similar measure, which was also dubbed the "Youngstown Community Bill of Rights," was defeated by a 57-43% margin in May (see Shale Daily, May 9).

"It was a decisive decision, and we hope that it sends a message to the anti-movement," spokesman Mike Chadsey of the Ohio Oil & Gas Association (OOGA) told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. The anti-fracking supporters "have no credibility in town. They're a small minority that's just loud in protest."

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

"For whatever reason, they think [shale development] is bad for the environment and bad for business," Chadsey said of the amendment's supporters. "But frankly, nobody in Ohio is buying it. Labor, the Chamber [of Commerce], Youngstown State University, Republicans and Democrats -- they all came out against it. That's why it went down twice in six months."

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce had opposed the latest amendment but withdrew a ballot certification challenge before the Mahoning County Board of Elections in September (see Shale Daily, Sept. 11).

According to reports, the anti-fracking groups that supported the amendment have vowed to bring the issue to a vote for a third time in 2014. Representatives from two groups based in Youngstown -- the Frackfree America National Coalition and Frackfree Mahoning Valley -- did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

A third group, Concerned Citizens Taking Action to Stop Fracking in Ohio, took to social media on Wednesday.

"Our united goal remains to stop fracking and its associated risks and documented harms completely in Ohio, but until that happens, a step in that process is to once again allow local communities to ban fracking and its toxic waste from being disposed of in their environs," the group stated in on its Facebook page Wednesday. "People will prevail over profits."

Elsewhere in Ohio, voters in Bowling Green defeated a similar anti-fracking charter amendment. However, another passed muster in Oberlin.

Unofficial election results posted by the Lorain County Board of Elections indicated that a "community bill of rights" in Oberlin passed by about a 70-30% margin, with a vote of 1,144 to 476. A "city charter amendment bill of rights" was defeated in Bowling Green by a near 75-25% margin (3,549-1,194), based on results posted by the Wood County Board of Elections.

"Oberlin is a small college town in Lorain County that has no shale development and probably very little vertical development in the Clinton Berea sandstone," Chadsey said, adding that anti-fracking forces "are trying to build this groundswell, and so far it's not working. People see the advantage to having the industry here and are supportive of it. And we thank them for it."

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