YOUNGSTOWN -- With city voters rejecting a citizen-initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in the city for the third time in a year, supporters of the Community Bill of Rights say it will be back for a fourth time and more, if needed.
“We’ll put it on again,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee that led the effort. “It doesn’t matter how many times we have to fight for our inalienable rights to clean water and clean air.”
“This is not going to stop,” said Lynn Anderson, another committee member. “It will keep going until it’s passed. It will keep going. This is not over.”
Tuesday looked like the best opportunity for the amendment to pass.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced last month that there’s a “probable” connection between drilling and earthquakes in nearby Poland in March, BP pulled out of the Utica Shale last week taking a $521 million tax write-off on about 100,000 leased acres in Trumbull County, and a recent report showed greenhouse gas emissions at Pennsylvania drilling sites up to 1,000 times higher than initially estimated.
The results at the polls were closer this time than the two failed attempts last year. But Youngstown voters rejected it Tuesday by 8.5 percentage points. It lost by 13.7 percent in May 2013 and by 9.7 percentage points in November.
“The citizens of Youngs-town have spoken loud and clear on this issue,” said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “It is time to move past this debate and get back to the business at hand, which is making sure the hardworking folks in Youngstown continue to have economic opportunities being brought forward by shale development.”
Chadsey said he respects the opposition, but “they sure are wasting a lot of people’s time and money.”
Both Anderson and a tearful Beiersdorfer contended the election “was stolen,” and that the vote totals weren’t accurate. They claimed earlier results had the charter amendment winning by a large margin. But except for the early-voting total, which had the amendment winning 814-to-800, four updated results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections and the final tally had the proposal losing.
Members of the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment, a group opposed to the amendment, say the proposal isn’t enforceable because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources controls fracking in the state.
But if the proposal had been approved, it would be a “job-killer and put Youngstown far behind other cities in attracting new business to the city,” said Mayor John A. McNally, a coalition member, because it sends the wrong signal to companies about this area’s support of fracking.
“Youngstown is making a comeback,and this charter amendment would have stopped that growth,” McNally added.
“We deserve more opportunities and a brighter future for all of our citizens and this law could have put that in jeopardy,” said Butch Taylor, business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, which funded the successful effort to defeat the amendment.
The Plumbers and Pipefitters spent $40,949 compared with $6,328 by the anti-frackers as of April 16, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed at the board of elections.