Nearly 13,000 signatures submitted in 5 counties to place rights-based bans on the November ballot
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2016
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OHIO: A record number of Community Bills of Rights citizen initiatives banning shale gas drilling and fracking, pipelines, and frack wastewater injection wells were turned in to local Boards of Elections this week.
Residents in Athens, Meigs and Medina Counties submitted petitions for county charters for the November ballot. The Cities of Waterville and Youngstown submitted petitions for charter amendments, also for the November ballot.
Each measure includes the rights of residents to local community self-government and the right of the people to ban activities that will harm their communities.
As fracking and its infrastructure spread across the state, communities are finding their state representatives and state regulatory agencies are helping to drive the industry into communities, against their will. Communities are requesting the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect themselves. The non-profit public interest law firm assisted community members to draft each of the rights-based initiatives.
Last summer, Athens, Meigs, and Medina counties advanced similar measures and were blocked from the ballot by the Ohio Supreme Court. Undeterred, these communities are advancing their Community Rights initiatives again, having addressed the Court’s concerns.
“People in Athens County were galvanized by what happened last summer,” stated Dick McGinn of the Athens County community group. “They are determined to exercise their right to initiative.”
Youngstown residents, running their measure for the sixth time, are also finding more and more residents energized by past efforts to keep their Community Bill of Rights off the ballot.
Waterville was spurred to action, turning to Community Rights when they learned that their town is targeted for a large compressor station that would emit toxic chemicals from the Nexus pipeline project.
Since 2012, Ohio communities have been protecting themselves from fracking through CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights. Yellow Springs, Oberlin, Athens City and Broadview Heights adopted Community Bills of Rights in the last few years. These local laws codify community rights to self-governance and a healthy environment, and the rights of nature to exist and flourish – while prohibiting frack activities as a violation of those rights.
Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Ohio Community Organizer, stated, “More and more people throughout the state of Ohio realize that they are the ones who need to stand up and protect their families and their homes by passing local laws. In a democracy, the power is in the hands of the people. The people are undaunted by the courts or their own government protecting the oil and gas industry. They aren’t giving up. We are witnessing the birth of a movement right here in Ohio.”
Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement
Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.
For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit ohcommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.
Photo: Reprinted from the Illinois Review http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2015/10/petition-signature-gathering-top-priority-for-illinois-candidate-races.html