For Immediate Release
July 14, 2014
Tish O’Dell, Director
On July 11, the community group Mothers Against Drilling In Our Neighborhoods, Inc (MADION), filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Bass Energy, Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corporation against the City of Broadview Heights. The lawsuit, pending in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, seeks to overturn the City’s Community Bill of Rights Charter Amendment, which bans oil and gas drilling and fracking. Bass and Ohio Valley Energy claim that as corporations holding state permits, they have a “right” to drill within Broadview Heights. Residents see things quite differently.
In November 2012, Broadview Heights voters overwhelmingly adopted (67%) the Community Bill of Rights, codifying their constitutional right to local self government, their rights to clean air and water, and the right to a sustainable energy future. The City Charter Amendment prohibits new wells from being drilled in the City as a violation of those rights. The initiative was driven by City residents and members of the local community group MADION.
The national Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) offered in May to defend Broadview Heights, without charge, in the event of a legal challenge to the Charter Amendment.
To date the city has not accepted the offer. According to Attorney Terry Lodge, representing the community group, "The oil companies hope to capitalize on the city's well-known hesitation to put on a real defense of the charter amendment, and that probably explains why they've kept quiet about the lawsuit. So, the citizens are stepping forward to enforce a law that they initiated and passed."
The corporations seek an Ohio court – on behalf of the corporations – to nullify these community rights protections. They ask the court for a declaratory judgment ruling the City’s Bill of Rights Charter Amendment is illegal due to state law preempting municipalities from regulating oil and gas extraction. However, Broadview Heights residents recognize that their right to protect their community’s health, safety, and welfare – which are not being protected by their state representatives – cannot be preempted. They also recognize that the Charter Amendment is about protecting community rights in the City, not about fracking regulations in the City.
MADION co-founder Tish O’Dell explained, “In 2004 the state legislature enacted HB278, usurping from the people all governing power over corporate behavior regarding drilling in Ohio communities. The legislature granted that power to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). It illegitimately stripped communities of the right to local self-government, and issued permits to corporations, legalizing the violation of community rights.” O’Dell sums it up this way, “This is really about our legislature giving corporations –existing outside our city limits – more rights than the people who live here. If we no longer have a say in what goes on in the communities we live in, then we are nothing more than colonies of the state, and resource colonies of the oil and gas industry, for their profit.”
The community group vows to fight to uphold and enforce the residents’ democratically adopted
Community Bill of Rights Charter Amendment in court, with or without the City’s backing. However, residents expect that the City would work with them in defense of the people’s passed law.
MADION is also supported by the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), a non-profit, state wide organization dedicated to extending local self-governance to all residents and communities in the state.
OHCRN Board Members can be contacted for comments on how Broadview Heights parallels events in their own communities:
Ellen Mavrich, Lorain County 412-818-4600
Richard McGinn, Athens County 740-593-8330
John Williams, Trumbell County 330-540-7080
Sherry Fleming, Williams County 419-636-1864
Gwen Fischer, Portage County 330-569-7863
Lisa Kochheiser, Wood County 419-349-3379
Leatra Harper, Guernsey County 419-450-7042
Susie Beiersdorfer, Mahoning County 330-881-1050
Joe Cronin, Greene County 937-769-1894
Carolyn Harding, Franklin County 614-893-6314