The people’s initiative codifies the right to clean water, air, and soil


Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

COLUMBUS, OHIO: Last week, Columbus City Council approved a citizen initiative entitled the Community Bill of Rights for Water, Soil, and Air Protection and to Prohibit Gas and Oil Extraction and Related Activities and Projects Ordinance. The measure qualified for the ballot with 12,134 valid signatures – well over the minimum required.

Since 2014, the Columbus Community Bill of Rights (CCBOR) group has worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a national public interest law firm. CELDF works with communities across the country to advance, protect, and defend communities’ democratic and environmental rights. CCBOR formed when they learned the Ohio EPA permitted radioactive fracked gas solid waste to be processed and “beneficially” used along the banks of the Alum Creek without testing for radioactivity. They also discovered there are 13 active oil and gas waste injection wells near the City’s drinking water source.

Last week’s milestone comes following two previous attempts by CCBOR to qualify their measure. During their first attempt, the City Council supported changes to the City Charter making it more difficult to qualify citizen initiatives. On their second attempt the group collected over 13,500 signatures; however, following the BOE validation process they were short the required number of signatures. As supporters overcame these hurdles, they expanded their education and outreach to engage with more residents, educating them on the threats posed by radioactive waste from fossil fuel extraction. During their three attempts, CCBOR members gathered more than 44,000 signatures.

The final step to place the initiative on the ballot is for the County Board of Elections to take their vote.

CELDF’s Ohio community organizer, Tish O’Dell, stated, “We have seen Ohio Boards of Elections across the state attempt to stymie the people’s democratic rights by blocking qualified citizen initiatives from the ballot. All eyes are on the Franklin County BOE. The CCBOR is made up of dedicated and passionate residents of Columbus, committed to protecting their community. Columbus residents have a constitutional right to vote on their own initiatives. They have a right to clean water, air and soil. Let them vote in November.”

Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement

Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit 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. Ohio joins state Community Rights Networks in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, where residents are advancing Community Rights state constitutional amendments.

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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