Appalachian Basin

Pennsylvania Anti-Fracking Group Wants to Manipulate More Ohio Communities

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has decided to expand its footprint in Ohio, hoping to continue hoodwinking unsuspecting communities with unenforceable community “bills of rights,” which of course are really about banning oil and gas development.  The organization has now formed the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), which of course will be the Pennsylvania-based organization’s mouthpiece for all things anti-energy in Ohio.

The group met recently to sign its “Columbus Declaration,” which aims “to elevate the rights of people, their communities and nature above the claimed ‘rights’ of corporations.”  It sounds appealing, but don’t be fooled: this is purely banning oil and gas development in the state, and it’s a threat to Ohio farmers, manufacturers and any place of business that does not align with CELDF’s fringe ideology.

The group is being led by Tish O’Dell, whom folks may remember from the recent lawsuit brought against her by Duck Creek Energy and Aquasalina. Ms. O’Dell and her partner were forced to pay restitution for defamation when they lied about the company’s product to its customers. So OHCRN is off to a great start!

The group’s mission is, as stated above, to promote the illegal and unenforceable community “bills of rights” across Ohio.  As we have detailed numerous times, a better name would be “bills of goods,” since the measures are unconstitutional and unenforceable. The whole exercise is an attempt to gain media attention, period.

The only thing a community “bill of rights” would actually do is force municipalities who adopt them to spend countless taxpayer dollars in lawsuits (which they would lose, too). The measures would also stifle job creation and economic development, since no company wants to invest in a region where its employees could be arrested for simply showing up to work.

Don’t believe us? The business manager of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 called one such measure in Youngstown a “jobs killer.”

For those not familiar with CELDF and its tactics, the group drops into unsuspecting communities to pass measures that promise communities the right to clean water, clean air and peaceful enjoyment of home. You can read more about it here. On the surface, folks look at the language and think there isn’t any sinister underpinning attached to the language.  But as with anything, the devil is in the details.

The language for the Ohio measures attempts to circumvent the Ohio and even U.S. Constitution, specifically by granting a city the authority to override state and federal laws. So, in addition to pushing for a ban on oil and gas development (which they would never overtly say, choosing instead to hide behind deceptive language about “rights” and “clean air”), CELDF and its allies are actively pushing for legal chaos, which will afford them additional opportunities to talk to the press.

Thankfully, CELDF’s efforts in Ohio have largely fizzled. The attempt in Youngstown has failed twice just this year.  The voters each time handily defeated the measure after they saw the “bill of rights” to be anti-business, unenforceable and generally more trouble than it was worth.

The Niles city council actually did pass a community “bill of rights” before realizing the true implications of the measure.  Once educated on the matter in a room with opponents and supporters, the city council appealed to reason and quickly rescinded the measure.

Bowling Green, a city nowhere near any current Utica shale development, voted down the measure this November due to the anti-business and over-reaching vague language that would place the city in danger of baseless litigation. CELDF likes to target areas such as Bowling Green that have no oil and gas development (as they did with Mora County, NM), because banning a process that doesn’t exist appears to pose little economic threat. The fact that Bowling Green rejected it by roughly a three-to-one margin speaks volumes.

The group’s actions shouldn’t sit well with anyone who is employed by any company that is connected to oil and gas development – including manufacturers and steel producers, among many others.  Whether you work in oil and gas, manufacturing, mining, construction, dry cleaning or operate a large farm, this group is trying to shut down these businesses, which apparently they have deemed unsuitable to their ideological future vision for Ohio.

As Ohio struggles to remove itself from the recent recession, oil and gas development has been a rare bright spot. The boost in infrastructure and manufacturing as a result of the shale boom has provided much-needed jobs and helped countless working families. The last thing we need is another group trying to shut down economic progress.

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