Environmental Advocate Visits Athens to Support Issue 7

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John Spon is the Law Director of Mansfield Ohio and a strong proponent for cities to take action to protect local environments from water pollution and other outgrowths of fracking.

He was in Athens Thursday to promote Issue 7 – a Citizens’ Bill of Rights for the City of Athens which is on the Nov. 4th ballot.  The issue also restricts fracking, drilling, the transportation of fracking waste within the city and purports to protect water quality.

Spon was the primary proponent of a similar Bill of Rights that passed in Mansfield in 2012 by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin.   He claims it has enabled his city to regulate fracking, injection wells and other potential environmental hazards.“Because the voters passed our Bill of Rights with such a resounding majority, it has given our city officials the backing to enact additional restrictive legislation,” Spon says.

He claims the Bill of Rights has given Mansfield officials a mandate to limit and punish environmental hazards.  Some detrimental activities can even result in criminal sanctions against corporations and their executives.

Mansfield has been joined by Broadview Heights, Yellow Springs, Oberlin, and Cincinnati in passing these local Bills of Rights.  Four more cities, including Athens, have measures on the ballot this November.

Spon is heavily critical of state statutes that have given the sole power to issue drilling permits to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He says that the ODNR can even issue permits within city limits and in densely populated areas.
He argues that local governments should have the right to regulate activities within their own boundaries and that local health and safety concerns should trump ODNR’s power.  Spon says that often ODNR’s regulations are “ludicrous” and “defy logic.”

Spon acknowledges that the clash between home rule for cities and state power will need to be resolved by the Ohio courts. 
Meanwhile, his city is in the forefront of local environmental controls. He says he wants Athens to join his efforts.