Fracking Fight Heats Up in Ohio

With the oil and gas industry already reveling in a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision stripping local control on fracking and other extraction activities away from communities, the Secretary of State has now handed the industry another victory, opening the door for fracking infrastructure projects to spread even faster across Ohio.

In a decision issued August 13, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted blocked citizens from voting on Home Rule Charter initiatives which include provisions on fracking infrastructure development.

In response to Husted’s decision, this week the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State on behalf of community members in Athens, Medina and Fulton Counties seeking to restore the initiatives to the November ballot. The complaint cites Article X, Section 3, of the Ohio Constitution which codifies the right of the people to vote on local Charter initiatives.

Ohio communities are being inundated by fracking infrastructure projects – such as frack wastewater injection wells and pipelines. Injection wells have been tied to earthquakes in Ohio, with fracking activities having major impacts on water quality and global warming.

Despite these impacts, Ohio communities have found their state government, rather than helping protect communities from frack injection wells and other infrastructure projects, is instead authorizing corporations to site those projects.  With the Ohio legislature legalizing fracking infrastructure projects, and the state Supreme Court ruling in February that the state has exclusive authority over oil and gas extraction (Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy Corporation), Ohio communities have been mobilizing at the county level to protect their health, safety, and welfare from fracking projects.


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"602529","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"427","style":"width: 600px; height: 400px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"640"}}]]

Anti-fracking activists protesting at the Ohio Statehouse, January 10, 2012 (image: Progress Ohio/Flickr CC)

In three counties – Athens, Medina, and Fulton – CELDF-assisted community members to draft county Home Rule Charter initiatives. Residents collected more than enough signatures to qualify the initiatives to the November ballot.

Efforts to keep the proposed Charters off the ballot landed on Secretary of State Husted’s desk. Already the Athens County Court of Common Pleas, in July, affirmed the right of the people to direct democracy through the initiative process, requiring the proposed Athens Charter be placed on the November ballot.

Husted’s decision, however, removed the county measures from the ballot. The decision was supported by the American Petroleum Institute, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. In his decision, Husted stated he was "unmoved" by the arguments of Athens, Medina, and Fulton residents seeking to exercise their democratic right to vote on the measures.

CELDF filed an appeal of the Secretary of State’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, on behalf of community members in the three counties. Attorney James Kinsman, stated, “It’s the people’s constitutional right to vote on initiatives. Mr. Husted – elected to serve the people of Ohio – is instead serving the oil and gas industry.”

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"602530","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"427","style":"width: 600px; height: 400px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"640"}}]]

Anti-fracking activists protesting at the Ohio Statehouse, January 10, 2012 (image: Progress Ohio/Flickr CC)

"Secretary Husted has set himself up as Ohio's censorship goalie," said Terry Lodge, co-counsel with Kinsman. "If the 'wrong' idea comes up for a vote, he alone can cancel the election. If the Ohio Supreme Court okays this arrangement, look for every future referendum that involves people vs. corporations to disappear through the Husted Loophole."

The right of initiative was designed to protect the people’s right to make law without having to receive approval or be interfered with by government. Secretary of State Husted, however, has determined that he is empowered to interfere with that right as he attempts to protect the oil and gas industry from the democratic decisions of the people of Ohio.

The appeal will be “fast-tracked” as an election case. A decision is expected from the Oho Supreme Court by September 15th.

RELATED STORIES

Big Texas Oil and Gas Torpedo a Small City's Effort to Ban Fracking — Bye Bye Local Democracy

Maryland's Republican Gov Allows Fracking Ban

Fracking Linked to Increased Infant Mortality in Alarming New Study

8 Dangerous Side Effects of Fracking That the Industry Doesn't Want You to Hear About

Fracking Has Now Been Linked to Low Birth Weight Babies

Fracking May Release Cancer-Causing Radioactive Gas, According to Surprising New Study


 

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.