by Sara Dorn
GATES MILLS, Ohio — Gates Mills residents are joining what’s become a nationwide movement and petitioning to have a bill of rights placed on the November ballot that would attempt to ban more oil and gas wells.
The state has exclusive rights to regulate oil and gas drilling, so Mayor Shawn Riley believes local legislation — like a bill of rights — would have little to no effect.
Instead, Riley wants property owners to pool their land, decide if and where hydraulic fracturing will be located in the village, and split the royalties.
The Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills worries Riley’s initiative sets the table for oil and gas companies.
Here’s how other communities are trying to control drilling in their towns:
Broadview Heights: The city is facing a lawsuit from Bass Energy Co. Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy after voters passed a bill of rights in November 2012 banning oil and gas drilling there.
In May 2013, two residents sued Bass as it made plans to drill near their street. The city of Broadview Heights backed the residents, while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued permits to the company anyway.
The companies sued the city in June and said the Community Bill of Rights denies them use of property and violates the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.
Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods (MADION), the organization that initiated the Broadview Heights bill of rights, filed a motion in July to intervene in the case.
MADION’s leader, Tish O’Dell, is also the Ohio organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which is helping the Gates Mills residents with its proposal and has worked with multiple municipalities across the United States.
“We feel the [state law] is an unjust and illegitimate law, so it comes back to our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution that we are born to unalienable rights, and if you are polluting my air and my water, you’re violating my rights,” O’Dell said.
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