Appalachian Basin

Ohio Voters Continue to Reject Anti-Shale Amendments

Five months ago, Youngstown voter’s handily defeated an ill-advised “community bill of rights” that was targeted at banning hydraulic fracturing (as well as pretty much anything else related to oil and gas).  But Frack Free Mahoning refused to take the hint from a 14-point loss, and once again placed the measure on the ballot for the November election. Once again, the opposition used misinformation and misleading ballot language in an attempt to confuse an electorate that is seeing tremendous economic opportunity thanks to Utica Shale exploration.

Well, the voters have spoken once again, and the result is the same: Youngstown still embraces Utica Shale development and all of the opportunities that come with it, voting the measure down by nearly ten points.

The language was essentially a carbon copy of the original petition voted on in June, but this time with added language to also ban pipeline infrastructure in the city limits. This added provision would essentially ban development of any pipeline used for residential or industrial uses, including providing natural gas for boilers used by hospitals and universities. And Frack Free Mahoning had the audacity to claim this was about protecting public health!

Of course, the language in the ballot wasn’t enforceable anyway, just the same as the last time.  But the measure would still have had significant unintended consequences for companies supporting the industry or transporting goods and services through the city.  The amendment would have essentially put a sign on the city limits proclaiming: “Youngstown is closed for business.”

Happily, the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment, a group formed by local businesses, trade unions, chamber of commerce and civic leaders, picked up where they left off in June and made sure the voters knew the “community bill of rights” was just a bill of goods.  Through continued outreach and events, the group educated Youngstown citizens on the ill advised ban to ensure the anti-oil and gas crowd did not roll back the opportunities that safe and responsible shale development has provided them over the past couple of years.

As Butch Taylor, business manager of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, described the Youngstown measure: “This amendment was a jobs killer.”

In Bowling Green, voters overwhelmingly voted down their own community “bill of rights” charter amendment by a whopping 3 to 1 margin.  The final tally of the votes was 1,191 for the amendment, while 3,548 voted against.

This overwhelming support came from the local officials and the business community, realizing the overreaching language would negatively impact local investment – even though no shale development is even heading their way.

The language, eerily similar to the Youngstown language, would have banned pipelines and threatened to take action against businesses operating in the city.  Fortunately, the push by local leaders on the potential negative ramifications resonated with their voters.

Thanks to the hard work of the coalition in Youngstown and the local leaders in Bowling Green, these two ballot initiatives will not be harming these hardworking communities.  As these phony “bills of rights” continue to come up, voters are increasingly recognizing that these initiatives are not the answer.   Whether you are in an oil and gas producing region or a town where development will never take place, these bans are inconsistent with job creation, local business investment, and even common sense.

Voters in Ohio see that. Unfortunately, the ideologues that keep pushing them (and make no mistake, they’re already working to get the measures on future ballots) simply refuse to admit that folks in Ohio don’t want what they’re selling.


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