Mansfield, Ohio First Community in State to Submit Community Bill of Rights to Voters

by Eric Belcastro

Faced with the permitting of two 5,000 foot deep injection wells in Mansfield by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and a wall of preemptive state law offering no remedy, Cindy Soliday, working with Frack Free Ohio and Occupy Mansfield, reached out to CELDF to learn about a rights-based approach. After an initial conference call and follow-up conversations with community members, Council, and the Law Director's office, John Spon, the Law Director, proposed a charter amendment. The amendment would drive a community Bill of Rights into Mansfield's charter and then prohibit the injection of fracking wastewater on grounds that such prohibition is necessary to secure and protect those community rights. The amendment also recognizes corporate “rights” as subordinate to the rights of the people of Mansfield, as well as recognizing the rights of residents, natural communities, and ecosystems to clean air and water.

Since the bill of rights amendment has been placed on the ballot, the corporation proposing the two injection wells in the city seems to have abandoned its plans. In a press release, Mayor Tim Theaker and Law Director John Spon stated, "While this appears to be the withdrawal of a company that sought to inject toxic poison into our soil, the city must remain vigilant against other companies, and the citizens of Mansfield must be ever aware of the importance of passing and adopting a Bill of Rights for the city."

The amendment has the support of the City Council and the Law Director: With 177 injection wells in Ohio and the recent associated earthquakes in Youngstown, injection wells are an issue of serious concern. The amendment will be on the ballot November 6, 2012. The Law Director has already received calls from officials across Ohio about the amendment, which serves as a base that may be elaborated on with further ordinances to clarify and strengthen its intent.  If adopted in November, the people of Mansfield will become the first electorate in Ohio to frontally challenge the authority of gas corporations and the state within their community.

For more information, contact Eric Belcastro at 412-216-9671 or