Fracking ban value debated
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 09:44
Bowling Green City Attorney Michael Marsh and Terry Lodge, attorney for Protect BG Ohio, have very different views on whether an effort to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city would have any validity.
In advance of Monday night's council meeting Marsh provided council members with information from the Ohio Supreme Court that he believes indicates the proposed charter amendment the group is seeking would have little value. The information details a February decision of the Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals regarding drilling and zoning laws in Munroe Falls, a suburb of Akron. "It is pretty clear the court is saying the state has pre-empted the field. Ordinances or charters, it makes no difference," Marsh said.
Although Marsh said he is not aware of any appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Lodge believes the case is being appealed because he has written a Friend of the Court brief for the small city. "In any case the appeals court decision is not a complete washout. There were some things the ruling upheld," Lodge said
In its ruling on State ex. real. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., the court did rule Munroe Falls "may enforce ordinances governing rights-of-way and excavations, but cannot enforce these rights-of-way ordinances in a way that discriminates against, unfairly impedes, or obstructs oil and gas activities and operations."
Lodge said Broadview Heights, Mansfield and Yellow Springs all have measures on the books to prevent fracking and expects Oberlin, Athens and Bowling Green will join the list later this year.
Lodge said communities with charter forms of government, such as BG, have an opportunity to exercise more local control "and send a message to the state legislature."
Lodge believes there is a "small chance of litigation" against the city because "the industry does not want to get on the front page."
Four other people spoke Monday night in favor of the initiative petition Protect BG Ohio is circulating to get the issue on the ballot. None spoke in opposition.
Wallace Avenue resident Erin Holmberg said she wanted Bowling Green to remain a clean and safe community. Holmberg said fracking had been banned in Vermont and France, and thought the same ought to be true in Bowling Green.
Leatra Harper, a former resident of BG, who moved to Senecaville in southeast Ohio, described herself as a "fracking refugee" staying in Grand Rapids. "It is too late for southeast Ohio. We have the opportunity to do something positive here," she said.
Also speaking were Joe DeMare, a Green Party candidate for city council, and Jeff Sorrells of Pearl Street.
The group needs 1,270 of signatures registered Bowling Green voters. As of Friday it had 1,200 signatures but wants to have at least 1,600 to make sure there are enough valid signatures upon review of the Wood County Board of Elections.
The group will submit its petition to Finance Director Brian Bushong, who will take it to the board of elections, which determines the number of valid signatures. It is then returned to the finance director, who in turn certifies it back to the BOE for placement on the ballot. Council has no role in the issue.
Four additional people spoke in favor of the petition effort, three of whom are BG residents and one a former resident.
Mayor Richard Edwards said he has been visited by representatives of the oil and gas industry and has invited them to make a statement to council during lobby visitation. "We do things in the open in Bowling Green," Edwards said.
Edwards announced that Dr. Robert Vincent, recently retired from the geology faculty at Bowling Green State University, will give a program on "The Geological Structure of Wood County," July 25 at 4 p.m. in council chambers. The session is open to the public. "This will be about the science, not the politics," Edward said.
• Learned the city has made tentative job offers to three police officers, pending successful medical reports. Municipal Administrator John Fawcett said the three will first undergo a four-month training at the Ohio State Police Academy, followed by a 14-week in-house training program. He expects the officers to be ready for full duty by next April 1.
• Heard the recent city auction of surplus items netted nearly $65,000 for the general fund.
• Watched as Edwards swore in Robert Piasecki Jr. to fill the Fourth Ward seat vacated earlier this summer by the resignation of Greg Robinette. Council named Piasecki to fill the seat at its July 1 meeting.