November 27, 2014

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Oberlin fracking ban to appear on ballot

OBERLIN — City residents are taking a stand against oil and gas exploration with a Community Bill of Rights designed to ban hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, in the city.

The petition, signed by 445 Oberlin residents, was declared valid by the city’s finance director, and it was approved during Oberlin’s City Council meeting Monday to appear on November’s ballot.

According to the initiative, the Community Bill of Rights would “ban the extraction of gas and oil, along with associated activities, including the disposal of associated wastes, into injection wells within the city and its jurisdiction …”

The city would be responsible for enforcing the ban, according to the Bill of Rights. A person or organization that violates the ordinance would be found guilty of a criminal offense and, upon conviction, “shall be sentenced to pay the maximum fine allowable under State law for that violation, and shall be imprisoned to the extent allowed by law.”

Oberlin resident Sam Rubin, who is pushing the Bill of Rights, said, if the initiative is passed, residents will also be able to sue oil and gas companies though an action in equity, such as an injunction, as opposed to suing for damages.

Rubin said it is unknown whether the initiative will effectively curb fracking in the city, but the group has the support of the Community Environment Legal Defense Fund, who will provide legal backing.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their environment, agriculture, the economy and quality of life, according to the organization’s website.

Rubin said residents have an obligation to protect their environment, and that is what led him and a small group of Oberlin residents to circulate the petition.
“This ordinance is a chance for Oberlin to re-assert its democracy,” he said.

The Rev. Steve Hammond of Peace Community Church was one of five designated committee members to represent the petitioners. Hammond said he jumped on board because he was concerned about oil drilling that is occurring in nearby communities.

“We can’t do anything to prevent that from happening here,” he said. “I’m concerned about the environmental impacts of fracking itself and what it’s doing to the water and the air.”
Oberlin isn’t the first city to pursue such legislation to ban oil and gas exploration.

Broadview Heights effectively passed a similar Community Bill of Rights in November to ban shale gas drilling and related activities, and a charter amendment was adopted by voters in Mansfield to prohibit injection wells without written city approval.

Broadview Heights is the first municipality in the state to include a local Bill of Rights in the city charter and to prohibit all new shale gas drilling, fracking and injection wells. The village of Yellow Springs became the first community in Ohio to adopt a local law asserting “the rights of residents to clean air and water and to protect the rights of nature,” according to a news release from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Broadview Heights Law Director Vince Ruffa has spoken out against the Community Bill of Rights, however, saying that the city didn’t have the authority to regulate drilling. Ruffa could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Oberlin Law Director Jon Clark is also skeptical that such an initiative will work.

“I do not feel that Oberlin, or any other city government, can enforce it,” he said.

Clark said a portion of the Community Bill of Rights, which deals with enforcement of the fracking ban, conflicts with state law that requires “uniform statewide regulation” of oil and gas activities by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Clark cited a case in which the 9th District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling that the city of Munroe Falls could order Beck Energy Corp. to cease excavation and drilling work on a piece of leased property because the company violated 11 local ordinances and failed to obtain mandatory permits from the city.

The appellate court held that the city cannot enforce its “home rule” drilling ordinances because they directly conflict with the state’s drilling statutes, which are general laws of uniform application.

The court held that Munroe Falls “cannot enforce these rights-of-way ordinances in a way that discriminates against, unfairly impedes, or obstructs oil and gas activities and operations.”
Clark said, although he doesn’t think the initiative is enforceable, he doesn’t believe that Oberlin is suitable for oil drilling.

“I don’t think Oberlin is ripe for any type of fracking,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123
or cmiller@chroniclet.com.


  • Bob Owens

    Kudos!

  • oldruss

    What a self-serving, delusional cabal of liberals. The Ninth District Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Oberlin and Lorain County, has already ruled that state statutes take precedence over any city’s attempts to regulate fracking.

    This pseudo “Bill of Rights” pretending to regulate fracking not only demeans the original Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution); but is nothing more than the futile rantings of the far left.

    • agent5959

      Could you explain how people asserting their right to personal and community safety violates the Bill of Rights? Which amendment did they violate, and how?

      • oldruss

        I said this pseudo “Bill of Rights” demeans the original, and is nothing more than the futile rantings of the far left. To call this useless petition about fracking a “Bill of Rights” is more than a little inappropriate, and is insulting, to say the least.

  • Mark B

    LibTards at their best, the all out war on energy is going to cost the people lots of money to heat their houses, i say that any energy sold to oberlin be assesed a huge tax to offset their stupidity.

    • agent5959

      Is “libtard” a portmanteau of liberal and retard? Do people really still use the word “retard” as an insult? That’s embarrassing. Have some class.

      • jd

        Class? It’s Mark B. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Chris Heathcote

    I’d laugh if oil and gas were found just outside the city and they start drilling left and right and Oberlin for nothing for it.

  • Nita Morrison

    Yay!

  • agent5959

    In all my discussions, I’ve never ran into a real, live person who supports the dangerous practice of fracking, but they show up in droves on news article comments. It seems likely that the supporters below may have a financial stake in allowing energy companies to put the people in harm’s way. I’d urge everyone to take the “pro-fracking” comments with a huge grain of salt.

    • oldruss

      Fracking is going great guns in North Dakota, and in southeast Ohio, bringing jobs, and money, and a new prosperity to both regions.

      • agent5959

        Going great in North Dakota? The fracking industry is killing crops, harming livestock, bringing an increase in pollution and crime in the state. The wasteful flaring of natural gas is so bright it can be seen from the International Space Station. What’s happening in North Dakota is disgraceful exploitation of the land and the people, it’s profit above common sense.

  • agent5959

    Not proven? Not only did scientists state that the wastewater disposal in fracking operations near Youngstown caused two earthquakes (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ohio-earthquake-likely-caused-by-fracking), but there are so many “flare offs,” where natural gas is burnt off in huge fires while oil is extracted from the shale, that you can see the fires in North Dakota from space. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/01/16/169511949/a-mysterious-patch-of-light-shows-up-in-the-north-dakota-dark)

    Know what happens when you burn millions of gallons of gas for no reason other than greed? Pollution. Lots of it.

    Fracking also creates a lot of dust… in North Dakota, the dust is so thick and dangerous that it chokes livestock and smothers crops. (http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/bombing_north_dakota/ and http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ccv/documents/bakken-oil-concerns)

    • Joe Smith

      Waste water disposal and fracking are two different things, the PA Environmental agency has admitted that not a single case of contamination has FRACKING been proven to be the cause.

      You can take frack water to a processing plant and make it clean enough to drink so that eliminates the issue.

      And what does flare offs have to do with anything? You do know that if it is not burnt as it is released that it can get ignited and explode?

      And greed? LOL, explain to me how a gas company makes money off off burning the natural gas, you do know they have to pay royalties off that gas to the landowners that are in the pool yet don’t make a penny off off burnt gas.They actually lose money when flaring .

      And fracking itself is done thousands of feet under the ground and makes zero dust.

      Your link shows dusts off truck driving down the road, I assume you also think dirt roads should be illegal?

      LOL

  • LookBackTwo

    This is all moot as there is insufficient Marcellus or Utica shale under Oberlin to support drilling.

  • Heath J

    Those F***ing idiots again..