Appalachian Basin

Youngstown Mayor: CELDF Anti-Fracking Community Bill of Rights “Out of State Folks Pushing An Agenda”

With early voting already underway, Youngstown, Ohio voters will be forced to decide on the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) authored so-called “Bill of Rights” anti-fracking amendment for the fifth time this November. The City of Youngstown has previously voted the measure down on four consecutive occasions, and the process is costing taxpayers tens of thousands and counting.

Outraged, the community is fighting back. Yesterday, Youngstown Mayor John McNally (D) was joined by a coalition of labor, business, and elected officials who have formed the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment to speak out against the amendment.  As Mayor McNally said,

“I do think it’s a larger issue than just the City of Youngstown. The folks that are involved, the folks that drafted it are all out of state folks that are pushing an agenda…that is detrimental to the City of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.” (emphasis added)

Mayor McNally is right. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has brought its failed campaigns to other areas as well, most recently to Denver, Colorado. Mayor McNally continued,



“This is not just an issue that is germane to the City of Youngstown. The Community Bill of Rights advocates have tried these issues in other cities in Ohio; they have tried them in Pennsylvania as well. I don’t think yet they have ever been to be enforceable issues. This is a concerted effort  by outside interest groups to control our chances at economic development in the City of Youngstown,  and Mahoning County.  I think that this the most glaring reason why I am opposed to this legislation.”

If anyone is still unclear about CELDF’s primary goal here, Frack Free Mahoning Valley activist, Susie Biersdorfer, essentially admitted,


“This is a movement about saying we, the people, in the cities of Youngstown can decide what industries come in here.

That’s right: if the city decides it doesn’t like your business, you’re out of business! Susie’s statement is certainly consistent with CELDF’s overarching mission to ban any kind of industry they want, as stated by CELDF founder, Thomas Linzey,

“If you are going to put all that work into a ballot initiative, why not do a ballot initiative that bans all finance companies in New York City from funding new projects that exacerbate climate change? Why not do something real…why not do something real…cause people are saying to themselves, ‘it would be illegal, it would be unlawful, it would be unconstitutional, because you are taking their property’ well..(expletive), it’s time.”

If that’s not enough, take a look at this meeting where CELDF organizer Ben Price and his colleagues explain how they’d like things to run:

Meeting attendee: “Ben was nice enough to say we’re gonna make decisions in here that the rest of the community will just have to live with.

Ben Price: “It’s how it’s done!”

Meeting attendee: “We laugh about it, but sadly it’s how it’s done.”

Unable to explain their crushing defeat last year, CELDF hit new lows this week citing a push-poll and accusing the Mahoning Count Board of Election of foul play. Mahoning County Board of Election Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Mahoning County Democrat Party David Betras responded this way:

“You just basically accused this board of elections of election fraud. I can’t help it if some rinky-dink polling company did a poll for you and the results are different. This is just ridiculous. I’m not going to let you impugn the integrity of this board and our staff. I find it highly offensive you’d accuse me of a crime.”

But at least some local residents of Youngstown are finding these antics comical.  The push-poll was supported by Youngstown State University  geology professor and Frackfree Mahoning activist, Ray Biersdorfer, who last year made a host of false claims, prior to the fourth failed ballot measure. A local Youngstown parent responded with this tongue-in-check comment:


Parents, elected official, labor leaders, and statewide groups all across Ohio have already sounded off against CELDF and its cronies, and have made their voices heard to the Ohio Supreme Court representing hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, job-creators, laborers, and elected officials. After the numerous CELDF failures in Youngstown, one would think that voters have spoken on this issue enough.  As the local paper rightfully pointed out,

“A reasonable person — with emphasis on the word reasonable— would conclude, therefore, that the outcome of the general election should be the final word on this self-serving issue. After all, the people have spoken, over and over. But the Beiersdorfers and others, who are determined to save us from ourselves, continue to believe they represent a majority of the residents of the city — despite evidence to the contrary.”



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