Athens Fracking Ban Set For Nov. 5 Ballot

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The Athens County Board of Elections has certified signatures needed to place a hydraulic fracturing ban on the Nov. 5 general election ballot in the city of Athens.

According to a news release from the Athens Community Bill of Rights Committee — the group that circulated petitions — the proposed ban on fracking and associated practices inside the city limits will be put before voters on the November ballot.

Approximately 780 signatures were submitted to Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht earlier this month, then forwarded to the elections board for certification. The title of the proposed ballot issue is “The Athens Community Bill of Rights and Water Supply Protection Ordinance.”

A news release on Wednesday from the committee stated that copies of the complete text of the ordinance — along with a half-page summary — will be posted in area newspapers, online and will also be available at polling stations throughout the city on Election Day.

According to BOR Committee member Dick McGinn, the ordinance will establish a Bill of Rights for Athens residents, and use those rights to ban unconventional deep shale horizontal fracturing and drilling, and associated activities, inside the city of Athens and its jurisdiction, including privately-held lands and residences, city parks, and Ohio University’s Athens campus.

The legislation would also ban activities associated with fracking such as the procurement of millions of gallons of fresh water, use of undisclosed chemicals, and the disposal of fracking waste in Class II injection wells. The ordinance would advise communities upstream from Athens that “industrial accidents and unwanted chemical events which cause pollution of Athens’ drinking water will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, citing ORC VII 743.25, which authorizes any municipality to prosecute water supply polluters upstream to a distance of 20 miles.”

In 2011, McGinn approached Athens City Council about passing legislation to ban fracking in the city, however the legislation was never officially introduced by any Council members. A year later, McGinn and a handful of other Athens residents — including 2nd Ward Councilman Jeff Risner — formed the Bill of Rights Committee.

After it became apparent that Council wasn’t going to move forward to put a fracking ban on the ballot, the group took matters into its own hands and began circulating petitions.

“The next step is to get out the vote and we expect a lively debate on the issues,” said Bill of Rights Committee member Sally Jo Wiley in Wednesday’s news release.