Citizens challenge HB463 as officials use it to block county charter initiatives banning fracking  



Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

Broadview Heights, OH:  Athens and Medina County, OH, residents, are taking their right to vote on initiatives creating county charters to the Ohio Supreme Court. County Boards of Elections and Common Pleas Courts refused to place their measures on the November ballot, despite submitting well over the required number of signatures. Officials cite House Bill 463, adopted by the Ohio legislature in December 2016, as grounds for blocking the measures. The proposed charters ban fracking activities as a violation of their right to clean air and water.

Ohio residents face fracking and its infrastructure, which threaten water sources, risk earthquakes, and contribute to climate change. Athens and Medina Counties are targeted for pipelines and wastewater injection wells. They requested assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect themselves.

For three years, county residents have advanced county charter initiatives to establish local constitutions defining their governing structure. The measures also establish environmental rights, including the right to clean air and water, and prohibit fracking-related projects. Oil and gas industry allies in state government have blocked them from the ballot.

In December 2016, the Ohio legislature used HB463 to quash these initiatives definitively. The General Assembly gave the Secretary of State and local Boards of Elections full authority to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot based on their opinion of the content. This goes against 104 years of precedent that protected citizen initiative from governmental interference.

Kathie Jones of Medina County stated, “What happens when the people begin adopting laws to govern the places where they live? The corporate state comes in to stop them. The oil and gas industry wants to kill citizen initiative in Ohio, because our rights-based organizing to ban fracking and pipelines is growing. Their minions in the state legislature obliged – and now we have HB463. It’s unconstitutional, violating our right to initiative and violating separation of powers. This is a threat to all citizen initiatives, and we’re fighting it.”

CELDF’s work is community-based, empowering everyday citizens to govern themselves in their own communities. Our fight on behalf of Athens and Medina residents is community-based as well. CELDF has chosen to crowdfund this legal battle, to keep the decision-making authority in the hands of the people, and give them the opportunity to show their support for citizen initiatives by donating what they can.

The crowdfunding platform we’ve chosen is CrowdJustice, the world’s leading platform for crowdfunding legal cases. CrowdJustice has raised money for citizen’s rights in cases like Aziz v. Trump, one of the first federal challenges to President Trump’s “Muslim Ban,” and a prominent battle against gerrymandering in Virginia. CrowdJustice CEO Julia Salasky stated, “CrowdJustice is committed to helping individuals and organizations defend their rights under the law. CELDF’s campaign is a notable example of that principle in practice, as they fight to preserve citizen initiative guaranteed to the people of Ohio in their state constitution.”

All donations to CELDF, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax deductible and will be used to defray legal costs.

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, where other localities are advancing similar measures to establish and protect their rights to a healthy climate, clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government.

Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance these 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.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit

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.



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