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Published: Wednesday, 10/9/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

BOWLING GREEN

Group aims to preserve Bowling Green's charter

Amendment on Nov. 5 ballot concerns fracking

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards announced a coalition Wednesday between city officials, business leaders, and various Bowling Green citizens interested in preserving the city’s charter.

He said they fear the charter's integrity could be compromised by the same strong, anti-fracking sentiment they share with those who want to amend it.

“I hope it will deepen community appreciation for our charter,” Mr. Edwards said of the largely symbolic coalition of which he was named chairman.

Former Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn is the co-chairman.

The coalition is not seeking donations, Mr. Edwards said.

It aims to convince Bowling Green voters they will be adequately protected from any fears they have about fracking by an ordinance Bowling Green city councilmen approved by a 7-0 vote Sept. 9 that forbids the controversial drilling technique from being used on land in the city limits. The ordinance also forbids fracking waste fluids from being disposed inside Bowling Green.

Fracking is the term for the practice of hydraulically fracturing shale bedrock. That type of drilling has been done in Ohio for many decades.

It has received heightened attention because of the development of a horizontal technique that has opened access to vast amounts of previously untapped natural gas and oil globally. Critics raise concerns about the potential for earthquakes and groundwater pollution.

Ohio is gearing up for a 20 to 30-year fracking boom that is expected to be fully under way in 2014, most of it east of I-77 near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia state lines.

Eastern Ohio also is the site of much underground injection of fracking waste fluids from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

While a number of Bowling Green officials oppose the concept of fracking within the city limits, they also oppose a ballot initiative for an amendment to the city’s charter that grew among petitioners who believe the city needs to assert its right to clean water, clean air, and clean land through a community bill of rights.

Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney who supports Bowling Green’s proposed charter amendment, said the proposal is modeled after what 150 other communities have for a bill of rights. He said the Edwards administration’s coalition to defeat the ballot initiative is “a really evil and kind of a bullying style of campaigning.”

Members of the business community have said they believe the ballot proposal is too vague and too open to interpretation by lawyers. Taken literally, they said, it could discourage business in Bowling Green in other ways.

The city charter, created in 1972 to establish a form of government in Bowling Green under home-rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution, “is not and was never designed to be an ‘issues’ document,” Mr. Edwards stated in a news release.

There are no known plans to frack land within the city limits now. Few such projects are expected to rise throughout most of northwest Ohio, at least in the immediate future, because of a multitude of scientific and economic factors. The region doesn’t have the rock formation and other types of geology the industry prefers to hydraulically fracture, or frack, shale bedrock.

But one of the proposed charter amendment’s organizers, Lisa Kochheiser of Bowling Green, said Bowling Green needs a community bill of rights to close any loopholes that might exist and to fend off all remaining potential fracking threats. She contends the ballot proposal will provide safeguards beyond the anti-fracking ordinance.

“This is something that is very real that could happen. We can’t rely on an ordinance to protect us,” said Ms. Kochheiser, a member of Protect BG Ohio, one of the groups supporting the proposed charter amendment.

The ballot initiative will be decided by city voters in the Nov. 5 election.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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