Athens Bans Fracking, Three Other Efforts Fail

A drilling rig for a deep shale well.
A drilling rig for a deep shale well.
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Athens voters supported the so-called Community Bill of Rights by a 57 percent margin. But Kent, Gates Mills, and Youngstown – all closer to current drilling activity – rejected fracking bans, Youngstown for the third time.

Both sides of the issue claimed victory.

Tish O’Dell is the statewide organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, or CELDF, the Pennsylvania-based group that helped activists in all four communities. She said her side won one more battle in a long-term fight.

"On Tuesday, almost 10,000 residents of Ohio, when you add them all together, stated that they’ve had enough. And so they took the first steps to changing this structure that places the corporate rights against the people in the community," she said.

O’Dell’s group has pushed the broad “Bill of Rights” model. CELDF-drafted measures are already in place in Oberlin, Yellow Springs, Broadview Heights and Mansfield.

Mike Chadsey, a spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, says the industry isn’t losing sleep over mostly liberal college towns adopting CELDF’s bans.

"If this was happening in places like Caldwell, Cambridge and Cadiz – where there’s actual oil and gas development – maybe that’s an indication where we have an issue, where we have some problems," he said.

There is some question whether the Community Bill of Rights measures are enforceable, since they seem to violate state law that says only the Department of Natural Resources can regulate oil and gas drilling.

O’Dell says activists in Columbus are working to get a measure on the ballot there.

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