It’s been a really bad week for fracking opponents in Ohio

https://thinkprogress.org/fracking-ohio-state-supreme-court-20f6998e6805?source=rss—-e5293acf313e—4

The state Supreme Court handed down a series of victories for the fracking industry.Protesters in Youngstown, Ohio in 2011 CREDIT: AP PHOTO/Mark StahlNo, landowners of Ohio, you cannot stop frackers on your own property.No, voters of Ohio, you cannot create your own oil and gas regulations.That’s the news this week out of the state Supreme Court, which handed down decisions Wednesday and Thursday that benefit the fracking industry. They are the most recent in a series of moves by the state government that have boosted the natural gas industry, often at the expense of everyday Ohioans. At one point, the state’s Department of Natural Resources was working to discredit environmentalists in a push to allow fracking in state parks.People have responded by seeking local ways to curb the practice, two of which were highlighted this week.The first decision is the more complicated one, and deals with local governance: Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that Medina County voters could not legally ban fracking using zoning laws. Voters passed the now-defunct ban using zoning laws because, in Ohio, only two out of 88 counties have a charter, which offers a system known as home rule. In those two counties, and in municipalities such as Youngstown and Cincinnati, changes to the charter can include such self-determination as a local ban on fracking.So in an attempt to get around the court’s 2015 ruling, a Medina County group — as well as groups in three other counties — proposed a ballot measure to establish their own county charter.Ohio Supreme Court Says Towns Aren’t Allowed To Ban FrackingBut Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled that the counties cannot even put these new charters to a vote. Husted argued that the proposed charters are not clear enough about how the counties would operate, and the state Supreme Court agreed. Last week, it decided not to revisit the issue, and on Wednesday denied yet another motion, killing the counties’ last chance to put the measure on the November ballot.“We don’t just have a fracking problem, we have a democracy problem,” said Youngstown resident Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of Frack Free Mahoning Valley and a board member of the Ohio Community Rights Network. “The rights of the people are subordinated to corporate privilege.”This November, Youngstown — which does have home rule — will vote on whether it wants to ban fracking. It will be the sixth such attempt since 2013.“We don’t lose until we quit,” Beiersdorfer said.It’s an uphill battle, though.Ohio has seen an exponential increase in natural gas extraction in the past decade, largely driven by an increase in hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. During fracking, large volumes of water, laced with chemicals and sand, are injected into the ground, breaking up rock formations and allowing the natural gas or oil to escape.The practice has been tied to water contamination, methane leaks, and earthquakes. In addition, the natural gas boom has spurred an expansion of the region’s pipeline infrastructure.New Gas Infrastructure Is Going To Completely Undermine U.S. Climate Goals“The dangers associated with fracking are inherent,” said Seth Gladstone, deputy communications director at Food and Water Watch. “They pose a grave risk to human health and the environment, and so it makes sense that communities, big and small, that are on the front lines dealing with these adverse health and environmental effects would seek to protect themselves by whatever means necessary.”Not content to stop there, the state Supreme Court issued another series of opinions on Thursday, finding in three different cases that property owners did not have mineral rights — that is, rights to the fossil fuels or other minerals — beneath their land.A $600-Million Fracking Company Just Sued This Tiny Ohio Town For Its WaterThose decisions, in turn, nullified arguments in 10 other contested cases.“We would support and defend any community’s attempt to ward off an industry that is concerned first and foremost with its own profit.”The court found that the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act, a 1989 law governing mineral rights that have been abandoned, does not automatically go into effect. Instead, the landowner must get a judicial degree. In one case, the court found that an Ohio man who had inherited 164.5 acres in Harrison County could not prevent drilling on his land. The property was purchased more than 50 years ago from a coal company that retained rights to the oil and gas deposits. Even though there was no activity between 1959 and 2011, the court found that the rights did not revert to the owner.“We would support and defend any community’s attempt to ward off an industry that is concerned first and foremost with its own profit and pays no care for the families and lands and property that are left in harms way when it comes to fracking,” Gladstone said.It’s been a really bad week for fracking opponents in Ohio was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. Read the responses to this story on Medium.

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