CELDF’s Worst Year Yet: Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Youngstown ‘Bill of Rights’ Appeal
by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth
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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s (CELDF) years-long Ohio anti-fracking campaign suffered its greatest blow yet on Friday, as the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the group’s appeal of the Mahoning County Board of Elections’ vote not to allow a measure aimed at banning fracking in Youngstown on the ballot for a seventh time. Six previous “Community Bill of Rights” measures had been rejected by Youngstown voters prior to Friday’s Supreme Court decision, which will ensure the measure won’t even appear on the ballot this November.
CELDF, which has been the driving force behind a very small group of anti-fracking activists targeting Ohio for years, has basically thrown in everything but the kitchen sink into its efforts to abuse Youngstown voters again this November — including crowdfunding, legal disputes and parachuting an activist in from Colorado to rally the troops. But its efforts have finally hit a wall. Friday’s 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court decision puts to bed years of debate over the validity of the ballot measure and, hopefully, will be a final end to the abuse of taxpayer funds that has already cost the City of Youngstown more than $187,000. There’s simply no question that 2017 continues to be the worst year on record for fringe environmental activists like CELDF, as Ohioans continue to reject anti-fracking initiatives across the state.
Here’s a quick recap of what’s went down in Youngstown for the past five years.
CELDF Youngstown “Bill of Rights”
After six consecutive defeats at the ballot box, the Mahoning County Board of Elections found that CELDF’s seventh attempt at getting a “Community Bill of Rights” measure on the ballot conflicts with state laws that clearly articulate that local governments in Ohio cannot regulate fracking and therefore ruled the measure to be “invalid.”
The decision was challenged by CELDF-backed groups and, as a result, the Ohio Supreme Court heard the case with haste due to the upcoming November election. If enacted, the Youngstown Bill of Rights would have essentially banned all construction activities within the city of Youngstown, as well as all oil and natural gas development.
Cost to City of Youngstown
As a reminder, CELDF has deep pockets. It can afford to be a litigation factory and abuse local municipalities at the ballot box. In 2015 alone, CELDF reported more than $1.4 million in assets, swelling its coffers by over 75 percent in just the past few years. CELDF has also consistently used Youngstown as a means to raise money, as its most recent campaign crowdfunded more than $5,000 specifically to pay for failed legal actions in Youngstown. So it’s really no surprise that CELDF has no regard for how much its efforts end up costing taxpayers, which is documented in the chart below.
CELDF Parachutes In Recruits
The Youngstown fight has been a hallmark campaign for CELDF. Its Youngstown efforts, while clearly a continued failure, have served as a battle cry throughout Ohio and even in other states as well. In fact, just days before the Ohio Supreme Court decision, CELDF parachuted in activist and Lafayette City, Colo., Councilwoman Merrily Mazza to rally the troops as part of a “Community Rising Tour.” Youngstown was Mazza’s last stop on the tour, no doubt due to the fact that Youngstown has been CELDF’s premier campaign for years. To put into perspective just how far Mazza is going to travel back home to Lafayette, using fossil fuels, take a look at this visual:
Mazza’s 3,281-mile round trip again highlights the arrogance and the “do as I say not as I do mentality” that these fringe environmental activists continue to showcase not just in Ohio but across the country.
This isn’t the first time the Ohio Supreme Court has struck down CELDF in Ohio and it probably won’t be the last. But for now, and for the first time since 2013, Youngstown voters won’t have to fork over thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to put the so-called “Community Bill of Rights” measure on the ballot. And for the people who actually live and work here (unlike Mazza and CELDF) we applaud the Ohio Supreme Court for its swift action to — at least temporarily — bring an end to CELDF’s costly madness.
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