For the second time in six months, voters in the City of Youngstown, OH, will be asked to pass an amendment to the city’s charter that would ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and several other activities that support shale development.
Although the amendment, also known as the “Youngstown Community Bill of Rights,” was defeated by a 57-43% margin in May (see Shale Daily, May 9), supporters believe they will be able to convince more people to vote for it the second time around. The amendment will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
“We’re doing a lot of the same things, getting the word out the same way with town halls, talking one-on-one, going to neighborhood meetings and just helping people be aware,” Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee, told NGI’s Shale Daily on Tuesday. “Since last May, new incidents happen every day that make people aware of the public health and safety risks of this new technology.
Beiersdorfer, a Green Party candidate for Youngstown City Council president, added, “I don’t think we should be guinea pigs while the safety technology comes up to a standard that we can all feel comfortable about.”
The amendment would ban fracking within the city limits, but it would also prohibit depositing, storing and transporting wastewater from shale operations; building infrastructure that supports shale development, including compressor stations, pipelines and processing, storage and transportation facilities; and water extraction from the surface or subsurface to support shale development.
“We clarified a section of the amendment,” Beiersdorfer said. “It doesn’t affect the manufacture, sale or distribution of materials associated with shale gas drilling.”
Opponents of the amendment, including the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, withdrew a ballot certification challenge before the Mahoning County Board of Elections just minutes before a hearing on Friday.
“There were a lot of issues going back and forth,” Tony Paglia, the chamber’s vice president for government affairs, told NGI’s Shale Daily on Tuesday. “A couple of the election board members are also on our [Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment], and there was the possibility that they might have to abstain.
“We didn’t think that there was any conflict of interest. They have the right to their opinions. We decided to withdraw and just work to get it defeated again in the fall. We think that it will be defeated. It was defeated by a pretty good margin in May.”
Mahoning County Board of Elections Clerk Danielle O’Neill told NGI’s Shale Daily that supporters of the anti-fracking amendment needed 1,562 valid signatures for it to appear on the ballot. O’Neill said that of the 2,450 signatures submitted, 1,641 were found to be valid.
Opponents of the amendment contend that the measure is moot because the regulation of the oil and gas industry is the dominion of the state government.
“There have always been bad laws,” Beiersdorfer said. “Local citizens have a right to decide what type of industry comes into their neighborhoods.” She said Youngstown-based environmental groups Frackfree America National Coalition and Frackfree Mahoning Valley also support the amendment.
But Paglia predicted the measure will be defeated again. “Nothing’s really changed that is going to change the outcome,” he said. “Obviously, you have to work to defeat it. But we think that the people in the coalition are resolved to do that.
“Nothing has changed as far as the attitudes of the community. A large majority of the people in this area, including elected officials, support the oil and gas industry. These types of ballot issues could hurt the economic progress that we have been making in the area for the last couple of years.”
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, Sept. 6; March 12, 2012). The well is offline and depressurized.
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