By Tish O’Dell, Broadview Heights, Ohio
I just read Jack Healy’s article titled “Heavyweight Response to Local Fracking Bans,” January 3, 2015. As a resident of one of the communities mentioned, I would like to give your readers another perspective - the perspective of a community member directly impacted by the harms this industry brings.
I am a resident of Broadview Heights, Ohio and yes, we passed a law in our community in 2012
prohibiting any new oil and gas wells from being drilled in our residential, suburban community. At the time of passage we had 90 wells in a 13 square mile city. But our law is not just a straight ban on drilling.
It is much more than that. It is a Community Bill of Rights, drafted by residents with the help of the
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Our Bill of Rights charter amendment asserts the community members’ rights to clean air, water, soil and, most importantly, the rights of the people to local self governance where we live.
Mr. Healy’s article showcases the industry’s view that these bans need to be stopped and that all of us
mere people need to be put back in our place. How dare we even consider asserting our unalienable
rights over their legislatively and judicially granted “rights”. And then we are accused by the industry
representative of hypocrisy for using oil and gas in our communities. Funny, but last time I checked, I
don’t really have a lot of choices on my energy sources. Maybe that’s because the industry who bought their “rights” in our community are also the ones buying – errr, lobbying – those same legislators to squash tax incentives for renewable energy companies and roll back renewable standards for energy production?
We, the people of Broadview Heights, used our unalienable right to democratic, local self governance to draft a law for our community to protect our health, safety and welfare. A law that gave us a voice in deciding the vision we collectively have for the future of our community. A law that said enough is
enough, when no elected official at the federal, state or local level would represent our best interests,
let alone protect us. We, the people of the community, are the ones who breathe the volatile organic
compounds vented from these 90 wells. We are the ones who risk explosions and leaks. We are the
ones who suffer property value reductions when lenders will not finance a mortgage when it’s time to
sell our homes.
Our Bill of Rights establishes that the role of government is to protect our civil and political rights, and governments are legitimate only if they are controlled by the people who live under them. This should not be news to any of us, since we profess openly and proudly to live in a democratic republic.
Our right to local self governance is deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition. It’s even the reason we fought against England for our independence. Our own Declaration of Independence affirms that government owes its existence to and derives its power exclusively from the community that creates it.
The Bill of Rights in Broadview Heights secures the right of the people to be the decision makers about whether or not the risks of more drilling in our community are worth taking, and brings democracy back to the citizens of Broadview Heights.
Last year, two drilling companies filed a lawsuit in June of 2014 against our community claiming that our Bill of Rights violates their “right” to drill in Broadview Heights. The oil and gas industry and the state don’t seem to care that the people of Broadview Heights democratically passed our Bill of Rights
initiative by 67%, thereby banning any new drilling in the city. So, yes, the residents, left with no other choice, filed a lawsuit against the state, the oil and gas association, and the drilling companies for violating the people’s rights. If we do nothing, and just accept these illegitimate laws that strip the
people of their unalienable rights and allow industry to trample and pillage our communities, then as I
see it, we are right back to where we started in the mid 1700’s, merely living in colonies to be used for
the gain of wealth and profit of others.
Our structure of law can protect the “rights” of corporations or it can protect the rights of people,
communities and nature. It cannot do both.
Note: Mr. Healy also briefly mentioned Lafayette, CO, but he omitted the fact that Lafayette also passed a Bill of Rights banning fracking and that the residents also filed a class action lawsuit against the state and the oil and gas association for violating their rights. The other cities mentioned passed straight bans, not Bills of Rights.
Tish O’Dell is co-founder of the community group in Broadview Heights, MADION (Mothers Against Drilling in our Neighborhoods), President of the Ohio Community Rights Network and the Ohio Organizer for CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund).