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Law Firm Fights Bowling Green Anti-Drilling Amendment
An Athens, Ohio law firm, Lavelle and Associates, filed a protest Thursday, September 5, 2013 with the Wood County Board of Elections to prevent the Bowling Green Community’s Bill of Rights Charter Amendment from being placed on the November ballot. The protest states that municipalities have no authority to exert legislative control over oil and gas production. Citizens assert Bowling Green has the ability to amend its charter as a home rule city, and there is a constitutional right for city residents to be allowed to vote on such issues which have been passed by other Ohio cities.
This is the third protest to be filed in Ohio by Lavelle and Associates in opposition to such November ballot initiatives. The firm first filed a protest in Athens a few weeks ago. The second protest was filed August 29 in Youngstown with the Mahoning County Board of Elections. The Youngstown protest was dropped as a result of Board of Election’s review meeting held September 6 in which a number of Youngstown residents demanded to retain their right to vote on the issue.
Response to the outside law firm’s filing in Bowling Green was made immediately by legal counsel, Sean Kelley, an attorney with the Robert E. Sweeney law firm in Cleveland, which was retained by CELDF to work on cases in Ohio. Attorney Kelley’s legal filing explains that the Board of Elections has no discretion to keep the amendment from a public vote. CELDF and the BG Charter Amendment Committee are responding to preserve the public's democratic choice on this critical issue facing all Ohioans today. Horizontal hydraulic fracking is the only industry in Ohio specifically made exempt from important environmental regulations at the state and federal level. Normal zoning regulations and local controls were dismantled in Ohio largely by the Neihaus Law in 2004. This requires Charter Amendment drives such as the Bowling Green ballot initiative so local residents can protect themselves and their property values.
Spokesperson for the Charter Amendment Committee, Lisa Kochheiser, expressed concerns shared by many BG residents: “This action strikes a major blow to Ohio democracy as it attempts to cut the last remaining Constitutional right available for local residents to protect their health, welfare and property values from the harmful effects of oil and gas activity, including toxic waste injection wells in city limits. Bowling Green citizens have the right to decide on this critical issue for themselves.” Toledo attorney and BG Charter Amendment supporter, Terry Lodge, commented, “Obviously, the firm (Lavelle and Associates) has been retained by those who are afraid of the citizens' voice. If the people want to protect themselves, this is the only avenue they have available. It should not be taken from them by a few people with self-centered, short-sighted monetary interests and a well-funded, multi-national industry.”
Bowling Green residents who would like to protect their right to decide whether the new and highly-unregulated industry of fracking and its associated toxic waste disposal should be allowed within city limits are urged to attend the open meeting on this challenge to be held at the Bowling Green Board of Elections on September 12 at 8:30 am.
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