Appalachian Basin

CELDF Anti-Fracking “Bill of Rights” Unanimously Voted Off Ballot in Youngstown

Last night, a bipartisan board in Youngstown, which included both the Democrat and Republican party chairmen who sit on the Mahoning County Board of Elections, voted unanimously (4-0) to keep the Pennsylvania based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s (CELDF) latest anti-fracking charter amendment, or so-called “Bill of Rights,” off the November ballot. The board concluded that a “Bill of Rights” is unconstitutional since state law gives authority over oil and gas development.

Previously, voters had been forced to go the polls to reject the “Bill of Rights” on four consecutive occasions. Overall, those attempts cost taxpayers $50,000.

Earlier this year, Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the Home Rule clause of Ohio’s constitution does not give local governments the authority to supersede drilling activities that are permitted by the state.  And just a few weeks ago, opposition to “ban fracking” ballot measures mounted to new levels in Ohio communities, prompting Secretary of State Jon Husted to reject three ballot proposals pushed by CELDF’s.  Secretary Husted cited the measures as a “violation of provisions of statutory and Ohio constitutional law.” According the secretary’s press release:

“The issue of whether local communities can get around state laws on fracking has already been litigated,” Secretary Husted said. “Allowing these proposals to proceed will only serve a false promise that wastes taxpayer’s time and money and will eventually end in sending the charters to certain death in the courts.” (emphasis added)

In Youngstown, voters announced the formation of the Voters for Ballot Integrity made up of local labor and business officials and concerned citizens, whose goal is stopping “job killing” “Community Bill of Rights” charter amendments. According to Bill Padisak, President of the Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO Labor Council and Voters for Ballot Integrity, the group was formed to bring new awareness to the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision and the impacts of the “Bill of Rights” on taxpayers and Youngstown businesses. As Padisak said in their press conference:

“Our concern is that this is costing the taxpayers of Youngstown a lot of money. It’s time for this to stop. I’m an environmentalist. I believe in responsible environmental controls. But this is not the way to do it. They need to take their fight to the state because that’s who controls this legislation. Therefore, there is no point in putting this on the ballot yet again. We’re calling on the board of elections and local leaders to do everything they can to stop this from being put back on the ballot and wasting more money.”

Small business folks were also on hand at the press conference, including a local bowling alley owner, Bob Smith, who noted that these ballot measures would impact businesses of all shapes and sizes:

“I’m concerned, as a small-businessman, that we could have all the appropriate permits and do everything by the letter of the law, but there could be a few people who come in and stop jobs because it’s against what they want to be done.”

Even the news media has exposed the CELDF’s antics. As WKBN reporter Gerry Ricciutti said,

“So it’s fear in the minds of some that a very small minority can hold the rest of the city hostage

People have learned about CELDF’s bait and switch campaign, and that’s why more and more bipartisan elected officials, courts, concerned citizens groups, small business folks, and labor groups have all stood against them.  The Mahoning County Board of Elections is just one more example of the community rising up to continue rejecting these job-killing ballot measures.

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