Athens votes to ban fracking | The Columbus Dispatch

ATHENS, Ohio — Residents of Athens voted overwhelmingly in Tuesday’s election to ban fracking and related oil and gas activity, although there is no fracking well in the city.

Similar measures were voted down on Tuesday in Youngstown, Kent and Gates Mills, a village outside Cleveland.

The Athens Community Bill of Rights, which modifies Athens municipal laws to prohibit shale gas and oil extraction, passed with 78 percent of the vote.

Jeffrey Risner, an Athens city councilman and one of the key backers of the bill of rights, said he pushed for it to protect the city’s drinking-water supply, which comes from an aquifer.

“We’re very cognizant of the fact that if fracking fluids got in there, we could not get them out,” Risner said of the underground water supply. “It would be catastrophic if that happened.”

To pull oil and natural gas from shale, companies drill vertically, then turn the drill sideways into the rock. They then blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the shafts to free trapped oil and gas.

The process is hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. During the process, fluids bubble back up to the surface with the gas.

Fracking chemicals include ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, considered a possible carcinogen. The waste that bubbles up includes radioactive material.

According to the state of Ohio, at least 2 billion gallons of wastewater are injected every day into disposal wells around the country.

Community bills of rights, designed by the national nonprofit organization Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, have been proposed around the country to try to keep environmental threats — whether perceived or real — out of municipalities.

In Ohio, such measures have passed in Broadview Heights, Mansfield, Oberlin and Yellow Springs. A group in Columbus is advocating for a similar bill to be placed on a future ballot.

Tuesday’s vote marked the fourth time a Community Bill of Rights has been rejected in Youngstown.

A similar bill had been proposed in 2013 in Athens, but it would have blocked oil and gas development not only in the city but also within 20 miles of it.

Rusty Rittenhouse, an Athens-area lawyer, successfully petitioned the Athens County Board of Elections to have the measure removed last year because it included land outside the city.

Rittenhouse said he hadn’t followed the measure that passed on Tuesday as closely.

“It’s kind of silly to do this in the city of Athens,” he said, “because you need a certain amount of land for fracking, and there’s just not enough space in Athens to do that.”

Mike Chadsey, a spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said the bills are mostly for show because the towns that have passed them have little or no oil and gas beneath them.

“I would be worried if these things started popping up in Guernsey County and Belmont County and Harrison County,” he said, referring to eastern Ohio counties where shale deposits have prompted a swift increase in fracking. “But these won’t have any effect on the oil and gas industry in places like Yellow Springs and Athens.”

via Athens votes to ban fracking | The Columbus Dispatch.