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Ohio Supreme Court derails efforts to put anti-fracking measures on ballots

Ohio Supreme Court derails efforts to put anti-fracking measures on ballots

The Ohio Supreme Court this week said it will not force a proposed 2016 charter initiative to be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot in Meigs County.

The ruling, a 6-1 majority, affects a measure seeking to prohibit the disposal of fracking waste, as well as ban the use of water for the fracking process of oil and gas drilling. The decision also impacts similar initiatives in Portage and Athens counties.

Supporters of the 2016 charters in Meigs wanted the Supreme Court to force the respective election boards and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to place the charter initiatives on the ballot. Election boards in all three counties, including Meigs, ruled that the 2016 measures were not valid.

According to Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the Ohio secretary of state that the proposed charters didn’t meet the state law requirements for a form of government. Husted had argued that the charter proposals in each county failed to enumerate “all the duties” of elected officials, citing that requirement under Ohio law — and the Supreme Court agreed.

Residents worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund — a nonprofit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, agriculture, economy and quality of life — to draft the charters, relying on last year’s Ohio Supreme Court decision as a guide in redrafting the measures.

Justice William O’Neill was the lone dissenter Tuesday, arguing that the people’s right to create their own form of government is being quashed.

“The secretary of state does not have the power to veto charter petitions on behalf of the oil and gas industry simply because the citizens did not pick exclusively from the two forms of county government delineated in R.C. 302.02.3 This is a usurpation of power from the people that we should not indulge.”

Tish O’Dell, community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund said, “the people’s right to alter or reform their government is meaningless when the same government that the people want to alter, acts as gatekeeper, restricting access to direct democracy as they so choose.”

She said communities across Ohio are facing fracking, wastewater injection wells, liquefied natural gas pipelines and compressor stations they don’t want. They are finding no remedy in their state government and are turning to their constitutional right of initiative to protect their communities from fracking related harms.

“Last year, we advanced rights-based county charter initiatives in Athens, Medina and Fulton counties,” said Dick McGinn of Athens. “The Supreme Court determined they could not go on the ballot due to a technicality in the format. Yet they remained unclear in defining exactly what was required.

“We drafted new charters this year, using the ambiguous direction given by the Supreme Court. One has to wonder: How convenient to deny there are clearly articulated rules on creating a charter, and then avoid providing clarity. The secretary of state and our judiciary can interpret vague guidelines as they wish, leaving the people chasing a moving target and unable to vote on their own county initiative, year after year.”




By: By Michael Johnson, Pomeroy Daily Sentinel, Published: September 16, 2016 – 09:46 PM 


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