A local grassroots campaign to give Columbusites the “legal teeth” to fight air, water and soil pollution has garnered enough support to get on the November ballot.
Dubbed the Community Bill of Rights, the ordinance would establish local governance over oil and gas activities taking place within the City of Columbus. It’d also enable residents to hold companies liable for oil and gas activities in neighboring municipalities, should they harm the water, air or soil of Columbus.
The Upper Scioto Watershed, Columbus’ main water source, is home to 13 active frack waste injection wells, and an additional four are permitted there.
In the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing process, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped through pipes deep into the ground (about 2,500 meters) and are then directed horizontally through the shale. The pressure creates perforations and fractures in the shale, releasing the natural gas trapped within. While some of the resulting waste remains underground, much of it comes back up, and it contains both the chemicals used in the process, as well as potentially radioactive materials from the shale.And further, from The Columbus Dispatch:
A proposal to ban oil and gas extraction and waste disposal in Columbus received enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, though the legality of the initiative is in question.
Organizers tried to put the measure on the ballot twice before, in 2015 and 2017, but didn’t get enough signatures. This time, though, the environmental group known as Columbus Community Bill of Rights collected 12,134 valid signatures, safely clearing the 8,990-signature requirement.
The initiative, which still needs approval from the city council before it goes on the ballot, would make it illegal to drill for oil and natural gas in Columbus, store or dump drilling waste in the city or transport waste across the city. It also seeks to establish a “community bill of rights” including the right to safe soil, clean air and potable water.
While there is no fracking happening in Columbus, “our concern is the waste coming into the city,” said Bill Lyons, a Clintonville resident who has helped organize the movement.
The waste can harm water, soil and air, Lyons said, and residents of the city should be allowed to determine whether they want to be exposed to those risks. Cities currently do not have control over that because a 2004 law gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole regulation over oil and gas exploration and operation.
“We should be the ones, because we live in this community, to decide if we want to take that risk or not,” Lyons said.
He acknowledged the possibility that the proposal, even if it is approved by voters, could be challenged in court. The initiative’s proposal to make it illegal to transport oil and gas waste across the city, for example, appears to conflict with federal laws governing interstate commerce.
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