City of Athens Fracking Ban Proposal Initiative (November 2014)
|Voting on Fracking|
|Not on ballot
If approved, this measure would ban the contentious process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," used in oil and gas drilling. This is the process in which large amounts of water and sand, mixed with certain chemicals, are pumped into oil wells to break shale and allow natural gas and oil to be released. Opponents of the method allege that the chemicals used can be harmful to water sources and the surrounding air, which also puts human health at risk. The group behind this initiative is called the Athens Bill of Rights Committee (BORC). Those who defend the practice of fracking believe it to be safe and economically beneficial, positing that the chemicals used are not toxic and cannot cause harm to the surrounding environment.
The Athens Bill of Rights Committee (BORC) is behind this initiative.
- Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA)
Path to the ballot
The BORC was attempting to get their initiative on the May 6, 2014, election ballot, but County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn told the group that, according to Ohio Revised Code 731.28, a citizen initiated ballot measure must go on the general election, which is on November 4, 2014, rather than on May 6, 2014. The Athens Bill of Rights Committee responsible for collecting the signatures for the initiative delivered a letter to Blackburn and elections board members Kenneth Ryan, Aundrea Carpenter-Colvin, Helen Walker and Kate McGuckin on February 10, 2014, requesting that in this case an exception be made. A portion of a news release issued by the Committee said, "As the BORC has argued before, the Ohio Revised Code specifically singles out citizen petitions and makes it harder for them to get on the ballot than ordinances put forward by elected officials. What BORC is requesting, in effect, is parity under the law which is a right based on Article 1 Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, under Right to alter, reform, or abolish government and repeal special privilege…”
The Athens County Board of Elections was sympathetic to the BORC but ultimately decided that they were bound by the law to put the initiative on the November ballot. BORC spokesperson Dick McGinn, in response to the decision by the Board of Elections, said, "Speaking for the elections board at the meeting, member Kenneth Ryan said he understood the basis of the BORC's request to place the initiative on the May primary ballot - namely, a sense of urgency on an issue of public health and safety. However, the law clearly limits initiative petitions to general elections, not primaries, in statutory cities like Athens."
Anti-fracking activists in Athens tried last year to allow voters to ban hydraulic fracturing on the ballot. However, their proposed measure sought to outlaw the practice within a twenty-mile radius of the city, as well as within city limits. The Athens County Board of Elections removed the measure from the ballot because its provisions exceeded the city's jurisdiction. This 2014 measure is more modest and only seeks to ban fracking within city limits.
The first oil well was drilled in Ohio in 1895; and production has been occurring ever since. Just over 75 percent of counties in Ohio have commercial oil and gas resources, although production is concentrated in the eastern half of the state. From 1895 to 2009 Ohio produced more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. One barrel of oil produces about 19 gallons of gas. Ohio sits on top of the Utica shale formation, which is expected to hold between 5.5 to 25 billion barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Fracking began in Ohio in 1952, and from then until 2009 fracking has been used to extract oil and gas from 80,306 wells.
The map to the right shows all the active, horizontal and directional wells in Athens County as of March 18, 2014. The blue dots marks where a well has been permitted, but not yet drilled. Dark pink indicates active injection is happening at that well. Yellow signals that that well is being drilled. Green indicates that a well is producing. Light pink denotes that the well is plugged. Salmon means that the well is inactive. Orange means the well is dry and abandoned.
Oil and gas drilling is regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas Resources. The Division is responsible for regulating oil and gas operations, drilling, underground injection, solution mining and brine disposal. The ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources is also responsible for inspecting the drilling, plugging and restoration of wells and well sites. On June 11, 2012 Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 315, creating new regulations applying to fracking. This bill created a chemical disclosure requirement, set up rules for chemical sharing among doctors, required water sampling, created daily fines up to $20,000 for noncompliance, and increased operator liability for horizontal wells.
- See also: Notable 2014 local measures
- City of Denton Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)
- City of Athens Fracking Ban Proposal Initiative (November 2014)
- City of Niles "Community Bill of Rights" Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2014)
- Butte County Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2014)
- Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2014)
- San Benito County Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2014)
City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 (June 2014)
Youngstown "Community Bill of Rights" Fracking Ban Charter Amendment (May 2014)
Johnson County Fracking Ban Referendum (March 2014)
- 'The Athens News, "Local anti-fracking group comes back with 2nd attempt at ballot measure," January 5, 2014
- Ohio Oil and Gas Association website, accessed January 6, 2014
- ''Athens Ohio Today, "Committee fights to keep fracking ban on primary ballot," February 10, 2014
- The Athens News, "Group argues to keep frack ban on May primary ballot," February 9, 2014
- The Athens News, "Fracking ban proposal will go on November ballot," February 19, 2014
- Department of Natural Resources, "Oil and Gas Fields Map of Ohio," accessed March 18, 2014
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Frequently Asked Questions," May 30, 2013, accessed March 18, 2014
- Energy in Depth, Ohio, "Ohio Energy 101," accessed March 18, 2014
- PolitiFact.com, "State Sen. Kris Jordan says 'fracking' has been used more than 60 years in Ohio," June 15, 2011, accessed March 18, 2014
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources, "Ohio Oil & Gas Wells," accessed March 18, 2014
- IDNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources, "About Us," accessed March 18, 2014
- ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources, "SB 315 Information," accessed March 18, 2014